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!
Please enjoy the following report comes straight from the field, edited for clarity and readability:
Welcome to the Community
#7 Kamara Taylor Street runs through Yongoroo, Lungi, Sierra Leone. This fishing village is heavily populated, with many households holding more than 20 family members. We are focusing on this area for projects because of the critical water shortage here.
The community is dependent on fishing. Even young children are kept from going to school so that they can help with the fishing business. Even the young girls in the community are involved. If not taught how to sell fish, the young girls are given away to older men for marriage.
There's no time to sit down and eat. Early in the morning, people go in droves to the nearby stream to bathe, regardless of gender. After the adults bathe, it's the children's turn. After bathing, people attend morning prayers and then start their workday down at the beach. The women go pick up and pack their fish to sell at inland markets like Makeni or Kono where fresh fish is not plentiful. These saleswomen dry the fish over an open fire in hopes that it can stay fresh during the very long journey. Women work long into the night doing this, chewing kola nuts to stay awake. Because mothers are so busy trying to sell fish and the sons and fathers are very busy trying to catch fish, cooking is relegated to girls between the ages of 12 and 16. These young girls are responsible for day-to-day running of the household. There is no playtime for these girls. After learning how to dutifully care for their families, the young lady is then considered as prepared for marriage.
Local women and children fetch water from the same stream in which the community bathes. They bathe alongside animals, but downstream, you might be able to spot someone else filling a bucket with water to be used back home. The stream is also contaminated by surface runoff and open defecation!
Several different types of containers are used to fetch water from the stream. Children start by carrying a one-gallon container, but as they grow, they'll graduate up to a five-gallon container. Some of these have covers like a jerrycan, but others are just open buckets that let water slosh around. When the water gets back home, it's left to let the dirt settle to the bottom. Then before drinking, the water is filtered through a cloth and then poured into the cup.
The negative effects of drinking water from the stream include typhoid, cholera, and bloated stomachs filled with worms. Cases of diarrhea and dysentery appear on a daily basis. Some people even die from drinking this water, but for the others, it's just a fact of life.
Less than half of households have a pit latrine. The families who don't have a pit latrine use the beach as a restroom, which is common in fishing communities. Under 25% of families use bathing rooms to wash up, or use dish racks and clotheslines to dry their things. During our visit, we couldn't find any hand-washing stations. Trash is swept together and then dumped in the sea. The tide goes out and pulls the dirt, garbage and waste away, but then what goes out comes back in!
The wharf and beach are covered by hundreds of people with not a single toilet nearby. People spit and urinate publicly whenever and wherever.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training and Hand-Washing Stations
There will be three different training sessions over the course of three days. Community members and local students are invited to participate in discussions, presentations, demonstrations, and onsite training at the well. The most important topic these people need to learn is hand-washing: how to do it properly and how to build a hand-washing station of their own. We will also teach about disease transmission and how to build barriers. By the end of training, a water user committee will also have been voted on and formed so that there can be proper operation and maintenance of all the new water points in this community. The committee will decide on a fair water user fee, and will penalize if improper behavior occurs.
Plans: Well Rehabilitation
This specific well slated for rehabilitation was dug by the community in 2003 at #7 Kamara Taylor Street. There had been no issues with the well up till recently. When the pump started to malfunction, they called a local repairman and pooled all of their money together to get the pump fixed. As is often the case, the repairman swapped out all of the good parts on their pump with used parts for his own gain. With these used parts, the community's pump soon gave out again.
We will take off the broken pump and open the well to air out for a few days. Once we can safely get into the well, the technician will measure the diameter of the existing casing. From there, we will construct four more casing to be tied together and lowered to the bottom. This process will deepen the well and ensure that there is an adequate water supply. We're going to try getting between five to seven feet of water, and then will recover the well. Once the well pad is secure, we will install a new India Mark II pump.
The paramount chief brought this community to our attention once again. Two years ago we repaired two wells, but they had been drilled too shallow and were overused. They have since gone dry. This community is in need of enough water sources to serve such a massive population! We have decided to repair this well, dig the other two deeper, and drill another two! We believe that by the time all of these projects are up and running, that everyone in this community will have full and fair access to clean water.