This project is a part of our shared program with Mariatu’s Hope of Sierra Leone. Our team is pleased to directly share the below report (edited for clarity, as needed).
Welcome to the Community
The community in Sumbuya is comprised of Temne, Susu, and Limba tribes. The Temne and Susu are primarily landowners, and conduct the majority of construction within the community. The Limbas, on the other hand, depend on the land for survival. Their livelihoods range from farming to the cultivating and selling of palm wine. The Limbas and Temne live within close proximity to one another and, as such, intermarriage between the two tribes is a common phenomenon today.
Early each morning, the Limbas set out to inspect palm trees. While their livelihood is dependent on the sale of palm wine, it is also consumed by themselves during weddings, parties, and other festivities. Harvesting palm for wine is challenging; some trees reach over 200 feet in height, and climbing them during the crack of dawn can sometimes result in injury or even death. The sweet smell of the milky white palm wine is considered God’s blessing and is hence consumed as God’s gift to the tribes. While in Islam consumption of alcohol is forbidden and considered a Haram (Editor’s Note: Arabic term meaning “forbidden”), palm wine is not believed to fall under the same category of alcohol and hence is consumed by all. Sometimes, children as little as three months old are given sips of palm wine. It is done so to help them sleep and give their mothers time to rest. Additionally, the palm wine is believed to serve as a substitution for inadequate nutrient supply in nursing babies.
The lack of a community mosque means residents have to travel to the nearest village to pray. As for the children, the lack of a community school means they have to commute one mile every day to attend the nearest one.
There is a hand-dug well used by the community, which is monitored by our organization. Because the well is not fenced, community members are required to remove their shoes before entering the premises, with women recommended to tie their hair in order to prevent it from falling into their open containers. After that, the water-carrying container is rinsed with a small amount of water and only then is the filling process started. There are two pictures of this seasonal hand-dug well included on this page, one of it during the dry season, and the other during the rainy season. Community members report that it's dry for no less than three months of every year, and our visits confirm this as fact.
Our monitoring has revealed that this well dries up during months with no rain. Since this is the only well, community members have to find water elsewhere during the summer. They have no alternative but to gather water from swamps nearby. The consumption of contaminated water from these swamps as a result of nearby fecal deposits have caused a variety of illness to the community. Additionally, individuals with weak or compromised immune systems who come into contact with parasites in the swamp’s water are at an even greater risk of serious illness. A practice among community members who gather water from these swamps is to allow the water to settle down until it looks safe enough for consumption. Consumption of this contaminated water has resulted in frequent visits to the doctor or local herbalist. Since the herbalist is cheaper than the clinic, community members prefer these traditional treatments. However, they’re often not effective.
Sanitation and Hygiene Situation
While most families within the community have access to latrines – predominantly pit latrines – many find these pit latrines hard to keep clean, and opt for the privacy of bushes. (Editor’s note: Open defecation — the practice of disposing human feces in the fields, forests, bushes, and open bodies of water — is an issue the community could potentially be facing). Those who own a private water well have the privilege of having a flush toilet, often seen as a luxury due to broader water scarcity. The rest of the households have latrines made of mud blocks with plastic bags wrapped around them, and palm leaves used as makeshift roofs.
The general attitude towards hygiene is neutral, and toilet facilities are the most neglected aspect of sanitation within the community. Due to the availability of open space, garbage disposal is not a predominant issue. Community members do not have access to hand-washing stations. There is a high prevalence of asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema as a result of inhalation of dust from the nearby quarry. The construction and stone workers are constantly exposed to dust, and a lack of facemask usage has become life-threating for some.
Plans: Sanitation and Hygiene Training
Training will last for three hours a day for three days. The facilitators have already assessed sanitation here and decided that hand-washing and using the latrine will be strongly emphasized. Though quite a few hand-washing stations were observed during our initial visit, we require that each and every family have their own place to wash their hands. During our hand-washing sessions, community members will be taught how to make their own hand-washing station out of a plastic jerrycan, sticks, and rope. These are the best solution for rural areas, since all the materials are all easily replaceable. Though pit latrines in this community are well-built, we also require that every family have their own.
Training will also result in the formation of a water user committee that will take responsibility for their new well. The members will manage and maintain the pump to the best of their ability, and will call our office if they need a mechanic to make a repair.
Plans: Well Rehabilitation
The well marked for this overhaul needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community once again. The pump will be removed, and a man will be lowered inside with a hand auger. This hand auger will allow the team to drill several meters deeper to hit a new water table, which will ensure the well supplies water throughout the drier seasons. As the team drills, casing will be installed, transforming this hand-dug well into a pseudo-borehole. PVC piping will connect this lower system directly to the pump, a construction that we know will also improve the quality of water.
Once this plan is implemented, everyone within the community will have access to safe drinking water in both quality and quantity. No more having to resort to dirty surface water during the dry season! We want this community to have a reliable source throughout the year.