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Location: Sierra Leone

Regional Program: Port Loko, Sierra Leone WaSH Program

Impact: 102 Served

Project Phase:  Installed

Functionality Status: 

Community Profile & Stories

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.

Water Situation

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.

Recent Project Updates

07/20/2017: Journey to Restore Water for Sumbuya Community

Sumbuya Community, Sierra Leone now has a well that provides clean water throughout the year, thanks to your donation! Hundreds of people are no longer stranded without clean water during the dry months. Hygiene and sanitation training was also conducted, which focused on healthy practices such as washing hands and using latrines. This water and new knowledge give the community a great foothold in eliminating water and sanitation-related illness. Please enjoy this update detailing all of the work that was done in Sumbuya Community, and be sure to check out the tons of new pictures!

Thank You for unlocking potential in this community. You made clean water a reality, and now you have a chance to make sure it keeps flowing. Join our team of monthly donors and help us, our caretakers, and our mechanics maintain this well and hundreds of other projects!

Project Result: New Knowledge

Hygiene and sanitation training was held on Mr. Amara Sillah’s property, since he has a large open space shaded by a big tree. He also made sure that the entire community knew about training at his home and the need to be there.

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The agenda was created after our staff took a baseline survey of hygiene standards here. Some of the topics covered during training were as follows:

– How to wash hands, and how to build a hand-washing station from a jerrycan, string, sticks, and netting

– Good and bad hygiene practices

– Dish racks and how to build them

– Keeping animals under control

– Management and maintenance of the hand pump

There was also a demonstration where the trainer went around shaking hands with all in attendance. Each individual noticed a glittery shine on their hands after the handshakes. This introduced a practical lesson: What are you seeing on your hands? They answer by saying “we are seeing shine-shine on our hands,” and that’s when the facilitators bring home the idea that these signify germs. We are always vulnerable to them, and need to keep clean by practicing good personal hygiene. This set us up for a strong transition into how to make hand-washing stations.

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Participants making hand-washing stations to bring home and install for their families.

They also learned how to make ORS (oral rehydration solution) and that they should take it when they get a headache; headaches are common here and a result of water shortage.

Diagrams portraying unhealthy practices such as walking barefoot, open defecation, outdoor urination, and eating with unwashed hands were all shown and discussed in groups. What behaviors make a community healthy, and what others are counterproductive?

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The trainer gets up close and personal while teaching about hygiene and sanitation!

Finda Amara was one of the many mothers who attended training to learn how she could help her family stay healthy. She told everyone that we are going further than any other organization because we teach hygiene that others don’t. “I am very thankful for this training. I pray for our neighboring country, Liberia, who are now suffering from monkey pox. Let them keep the hand-washing tight and cover their toilet holes and scrub the toilet every week. Be careful for flies and let all of them wash their mangoes before eating them!” And she put a condition on the community. She continued, “If you don’t build dish rask you will not fetch water at the well.” Everyone agreed and said they’d get right to it!

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Finda Amara

Project Result: A Reliable Water Well

We spearheaded a new method of converting the bottom of a hand-dug well into a borehole. When we arrived at Quarry Road to start this process, the well was at 60 feet with absolutely no water. The team found the well dry and completely unusable. This well was dug in a very bad location, at the top of a drop off into a valley. Siting a well at this location has a very low chance of success. This well always produces water from only July to January when it dries up. For six months, this well is unusable.

The team sets up the tripod and pulley over the well. Normally, the team would go down inside the well to drill it deeper, but it was decided to drill this well differently. The team will work from ground level. First, they installed 8″ PVC casing through the hatch cover down to the bottom of the well. This ensures that the drilling begins straight and also keeps the hole from collapsing. They connect the bucket auger drill bit to the drilling rod and lower it into the well, continuing to add more drill rods until they hit the bottom. Each drill rod is 18 feet in length and every time the team empties the bucket auger, they must reverse the process by disconnecting the rods until the drill bit can be emptied. This method is more labor intensive, but working from the top was much safer in this circumstance. There are different drill bits for different conditions, a special bit just for clay, one for sand, one for rocks and one combination bit for all three conditions.

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Drilling the well deeper from ground level.

The team only found a few feet of sand, and then it immediately changed to just clay. Clay this soon isn’t a great sign for well location, but we decided to persevere to our planned depth. We finally hit water at 91 feet and stopped because of black clay underneath.

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Emptying the drill bit.

18 feet of 4¼” casing was slotted for screen and lowered inside the temporary casing from 62 to 80 feet. Five buckets of filter pack were poured in between the two casings. The team could then hoist out the temporary casing.

Iron rods were cemented into the well lining and attached to the casing to support the weight of the PVC and keep it straight from bottom to top. The team welded a collar in the pump base to further support the casing.

The well was developed by the hand bailing method. On the second day the bailer got stuck inside the casing. The team tried to remove it for a full day to remove but were unsuccessful. Once again, the team set up the monkey jack (chain hoist) and tried to force the bailer free. The rope attached the bailer broke, and at that point there were no more options other than to pull out casing. The team hoisted the casing out and found that the bailer had broken in the screen area. The team was unable to remove all of the casing, which meant they had to drill in a new location inside the hand-dug well. The team didn’t give up and tried again to restore water to this community. While drilling they found a lot of clay, which made for slow going. They stopped when they finally found water at 91 feet, and then prepared to test the water level.

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Chunks that came out with the broken bailer.

The well was tested by installing an electrical submersible pump to a depth of 80 feet. It was pumped for 60 minutes, which dropped the static water level by eight feet. The team measured the amount of water pumped: 220 gallons at 13.5 liters per minute. This would normally be discouraging, but the team remembered opening the hatch to a bone-dry well just a few days before. The water being pumped was water the community never had access to at this time of year! Monitoring data shows that water will fully return in one month from now, and the yield will greatly increase.

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The second drilling attempt – Trying to find enough water!

Mamusa Bangura was there to see water come out of the pump during this dry season. “Our previous water source compared to our new safe drinking water source is one hundred percent better. The location of our community, Quarry as the name implies, is a place where most people engaged in stone breaking work for their daily survival. The place has become so hilly that is even difficult to fetch water from there. Indeed it has always been challenging for us. In the dry season, we normally moved from quarry to quarry in search of safe water source that will last for longer period of time. In the rainy season, we get relief by collecting from the water rainfalls. We have been always susceptible to all kinds of diseases. Frankly speaking, as we live in this difficult community, we are often vulnerable. So with the availability of the new safe drinking water our lives will continue to be improved more and more because water is life,” she rejoiced.

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04/27/2017: Sumbuya Community Project Underway

Sumbuya Community in Sierra Leone will soon have a source of clean water that works year round, thanks to your generous donation. A seasonal well is being deepened and the community will receive training in sanitation and hygiene. Imagine the difference these resources will make for this community!

We just posted an initial report from our partner in the field including an introduction to the community, maps, and pictures. We’ll keep you updated as the work progresses.

Thank You for caring for the thirsty!

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Explore More of The Project

Project Photos

Project Data

Project Type:  Dug Well and Hand Pump
Location:  Port Loko, Kaffu Bullom, Luigi, Sumbuya
ProjectID: 5113
Install Date:  07/20/2017


Country Details

Sierra Leone

Population: 9.7 Million
Lacking clean water: 47%
Below poverty line: 70%

Partner Profile

Mariatu’s Hope works with vulnerable communities and individuals to inspire hope through Maternal Care, Infant Nutrition, Safe Water Access, Proper Sanitation and Health and Hygiene promotion.