We are sad to report that this project has been cancelled for the time being. Dissension within the community stood in the way of our partner successfully implementing a new well. We intend to keep working with this community in the hope of bringing clean water at a later date. Thank you for your help!
Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last two years. Though considered stable at the moment, the country is still very cautious.
Our teams have remained safe and are on the front lines of Ebola prevention through this water, hygiene and sanitation program. Your support acknowledges and celebrates their selfless work and bravery.
The entire team continues to express their gratitude for your support of communities in Sierra Leone, and we can’t wait to celebrate safe water together!
Robis community is made up of people that inherited land from their ancestors. In Sierra Leone, any community that is inhabited by the descendants is normally very impoverished with many people uneducated with limited skills and limited knowledge about the world outside of their community.
Robis is a predominately Muslim community with a routine lifestyle. They get up at 5am to bathe and get ready for the morning prayer. The community has never had a safe water source, and the consequences are catastrophic. The people on a daily basis complain of stomachaches, bloated stomachs for children, worms, diarrhea, dysentery and typhoid. We have never seen a more deprived community than this one when it comes to safe drinking water. A lot of the people have skin rashes and there is a high infant mortality rate. When we interviewed some members of the community, I noticed a lot of people complain that less than half of the children born in this community survive. Pregnant women and children travel the steep hill to fetch water from the stream. As an example of poor health, presently there is one baby at the Lungi Government Hospital. The mother died. This baby, at the age of two months old, had a hemoglobin of 2.0 (severe anemia) and had 6,000 malaria parasites. She has already had two blood transfusions and has been admitted for more than a week. Her name is Kadi. Please pray with us that she lives to see clean, safe water in her community.
An application was submitted, and based on the baseline survey and initial report we saw the suffering that the over three hundred people face day to day. Initially, we went to this village at the request of the school which has no well. Upon doing the baseline survey, we were shocked at the condition of where the people fetch water. We asked if the community at the far end of the village would walk to the school for safe drinking water and they said no, they would continue to fetch it from the stream. (Click here to see the new well project at the school.)When asked if they would fetch it from a well located at their end, and the response was a resounding yes! We discussed what our expectations were, and the community wholeheartedly agreed to come together for change.
Current Water Situation
The whole community depends on two streams that supply a population of almost four hundred. These water sources are used all through out the year for every minor and major use of water. The walk to and from is nearly forty minutes long. The community members will normally do their laundry and bathe at the stream to lessen the work on the women and children. The water that is transported to the community houses is strictly for drinking. After prayer, they walk about a mile and a half to the job which they have had since they were children, that is to break stones. The children have to use a flashlight for the long walk to fetch water. The hill that leads down the stream is inclined at more than sixty degrees. Going down and climbing up is equally hard; a horror story for those poor children that are given oversized containers to carry for forty minutes.
The community, primarily women and children, walk forty minutes round trip, down a steep hill, immerse the open container in the stream, and try to keep leaves, clothes, plastics and tadpoles from entering the bucket. The dirt too small to take out will be carried back to their houses. People get in the water knee deep, further contaminating the source with whatever is on their feet.
The bucket of choice is an open container because it is easier to fill and to avoid coming up with tadpoles and other debris. After fetching water, they normally wait for fifteen to thirty minutes for the dirt to settle. The open containers range from one to five gallons. Containers are not clean as they are only rinsed with the contaminated water, no soap. The only water that is stored is water used for drinking. After the water is brought home from the forty minutes walk, it is allowed to settle and then drained. Not filtered but drained. The drinking water is then put in a drinking rubber bucket and hoisted onto a table and kept in the parlor. All other uses of water are done at the stream.
The water source is clearly contaminated. When we visited the streams that the community fetch water from, there were two young men washing their clothes just two feet away from where the people fetch water for drinking. The suds from the local soap contain high concentration of caustic soda and contaminates the whole stream. And just a few feet away people are using the bushes as toilets. The streams are filled with rags, old shoes, and every unimaginable dirt.
In this community, less than half of the households have latrines. The latrines are in bad shape. Some are pits dug with palm leaves to cover the sides and no roof. A majority of the elderly use stools at night and empty them in the morning. The latrines that are in fair shape have no soap, and the water is rationed since the distance is far. The water that is used for laundry gets reused in the latrines. The community use the nearby bush or use the bushes closer to the stream. It is more convenient to use the bushes near the streams because they can use the water to wash up. Open defecation is a clear issue that will be addressed during training by a transect walk and instruction on why it is better for the entire community if they construct and use latrines rather than the bushes.
Less than half of the households have bathing rooms and there are no handwashing stations in the community. Very few homes have clotheslines, and household trash is thrown a few feet from the houses, not in a compost pit.
The general attitude toward sanitation is negative. There are no adequate toilet facilities, hardly any dish racks, no hand washing stations and barely any bathing rooms. A majority of the people bathe at the stream or outside at night. Clean water is difficult to come by unless people pay to transport water from protected water well, that is very rare because they cannot afford it.
We spoke to Maligie Kamara, forty three years old who works as a porter at the Lungi Government Hospital. When asked about the current health situation in the community, he replied, "Look at my body, is it the body of someone healthy?" His body was full of rashes, scabbies, and a large blotted belly. "We thank God we are getting a well."
The training will take three days, three hours a day. The training will be spent educating the community on hygiene, healthy and unhealthy community, sanitation, and the importance of good and clean toilet facilities. This community may need further community development, and we are committed to that. Since we will be doing other work in this area, we will stop by and do village walk throughs to encourage building of tippy taps and construction of native toilets. Behavioral change takes time. No one should fool themselves to think that one, two or three hygiene lessons will make lasting change.
Based on the initial survey, the training objectives will be hygiene, tippy taps, healthy and unhealthy community, rubbish pits, water borne illnesses, and proper storage and treatment of drinking water. We will also talk about how the community sees native toilets versus open defecation. We will work very closely with the section chief, town chief and headman for bylaws to be put in place that every house should have a latrine of some sort.
Tippy taps are handwashing stations that are easy to construct and maintain. A one gallon container suspended by a rope tied to stick with soap around a net to avoid contamination.
These containers are affordable and sustainable for every person in this village. We will encourage every household to have a hand washing station. Again, we will work with the Chief/headman to have them remind community members of the importance of these handwashing stations and the benefits of washing hands.
The Headman Ali Kamara and the chief Imam will gather the youth to assist in the clean up of the projected site and digging the holes. The section chief Pa Alimamy Turay, who was at the Robis community during the initial survey, is so very much in favor of the idea that it was a priority for him to be present from the onset of the project. There was no place he could have been that day. He has seen the suffering of this community but has been unable to help due to financial constraints. He has called the office plenty of times to show his appreciation and gratitude for a borehole to be drilled in his section. He says the effort Mariatu's Hope and The Water Project has played in his section has had greater impact than any other NGO. He cannot fully express what is in his heart, but God almighty will fully repay our organization and its donors for doing the Lord's work. "They left the confines and comfort of their country, and come to our country to save lives. Whenever you give water, you rescue lives." The chief Imam Kalie Kamara has been offering prayers since he saw us in his community. He said, "Where ever you see Mariatu's Hope staff, safe drinking water is just around the corner."