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
Kasongha is a semi-urban area, though it still has a village feel to it. Initially, the people living in this community were Mandingo, but it has become a community made of several different tribes with the majority being Temne. The community has been growing a lot; it now can boast of a mosque and a health clinic. Pa Komrabai Sesay II is the present chief of this community.
This community is purely Muslim; people come from other communities to learn Arabic in this community. A normal day in this community starts at 4:30am when people wake up to get ready for prayer. After this prayer, they will wait and listen to a lecture at the mosque until 7am. Children who live in Kasongha wake up at 6:30am, sweep the compound, and then clean the dishes. They normally finish their domestic work by 7:20am so they have enough time to fetch water for school. Students must get to school with their water by 8:20am. Some students are late because of these morning chores. The adults in this community are teachers, professionals, business owners, nurses, petty traders, and farmers.
The mosque dug a well on their grounds and opened it to the surrounding community. We installed a pump on this well and have been monitoring it on a quarterly basis since then. From recent visits and talks with the locals, it's obvious that the water table has dropped since the well's implementation. Since we became aware of this issue, we've tried to drop more casings to deepen the well but have been unsuccessful. The soft sand has made this near impossible. Well water is unavailable for months at a time.
When this well isn't working during the drier months, community members return to using open water sources like streams. This water is visibly dirty and is normally just used for cleaning. However, without a functional well there's no other choice but to use that dirty water for drinking too. This stream is also located at the bottom of a steep hill on which there are many households. When it rains, these families' garbage and waste is washed down the hill and into the water.
After drinking water from the stream, community members, especially the weaker children and elderly, suffer from diarrhea, stomachaches, cholera, and typhoid. The bushy overgrowth and stagnant water at the stream host swarms of mosquitos, so typhoid also increases when the community cannot use the water well.
Less than half of households have their own pit latrine. The most common latrine was made of mud. Because of this low coverage, open defecation is an issue here. Community members prefer the seemingly clean privacy of bushes and other open spaces to the enclosed and often dirty latrines.
Mr. Alusine Conteh is a local court chairman who lives in Kasongha. "The health in this country and community is poor. We do not have another alternative water source. We only have the stream as an alternative so we are making use of it. People are sick malaria, cholera, stomachache and vomiting. People normally come to our community health post for treatment every day, and also the suckling mothers and pregnant women. Kids walk with bare foot on the ground without shoes all this causes sickness in the community especially in the raining season. Now is raining season many sickness is going around. We may get in contact most of the sickness through the water we are drinking, air, latrine and food. Our health in this community is poor," he confirmed.
Plans: Hygiene and Sanitation Training
There will be hygiene and sanitation training sessions offered for three days in a row.
Not many hand-washing stations were observed here. After our visit, the hygiene and sanitation trainer decided it would be best to teach community members how to build a tippy tap (a hand-washing station built with a jerrycan, string, and sticks). They will use these tippy taps for hand-washing demonstrations, and will also teach about other tools like dish racks and the importance of properly penning in animals.
These trainings will also strengthen the water user committee that manages and maintains this well. They enforce proper behavior and report to us whenever they need our help solving a serious problem, like a pump breakdown.
Plans: Well Rehabilitation
The well marked for this overhaul is located at 16 Komrabai Road, and was dug by the mosque there. It is dry for multiple months of the year, and needs major work to supply adequate, clean water to the community year round. 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 sufficient water column that 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, even through the dry months.