As you know, Ebola has been a tragic reality for the people of Sierra Leone over the last year. In the middle of this, we've remained more committed than ever to the people of Sierra Leone through a service and support program that focuses on keeping water flowing at approximately 100 previously installed projects. And, as you know, we’re also providing new water access for communities- made possible because of your support. Our teams have been brave and selfless - and we are so proud of them.
Very recently, Ebola has made a resurgence in our area of operation. Our team was providing service to a previously installed water point at a large regional hospital, and returned the next morning to find the entire area under quarantine. Unfortunately, this meant that many of our tools were also under quarantine. This, along with restoring some water points post-quarantine has led to reasonable delays in our program. We are very happy, after some delays, to bring this report to you.
We are in weekly contact with our team in Sierra Leone, and everyone is safe. 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!
This village of Moniya is located in the Lungi Town section of Lungi. You must drive through Madina and then you will find Moniya. It is a rural village and has one water well for the community. The well had been having problems running out of water causing the people of the community to have to go to the stream and swamp to fetch water. (the well had less than 1 m of water in it.) This has led to such sickness as typhoid, malaria, diarrhea and dysentery. Children are seen with swollen bellies, evidence of worms.
PRE-WELL REHABILITATION: We will be meeting with the community to form a water user committee with a constitution for the use of the well being signed by the committee members. Having a water user committee or WASH committee is important for the community. This will ensure that the well and the hand pump are maintained. The constitution outlines the responsibilities of the community in order to maintain order and good hygiene. Prior to beginning the well rehabilitation, the Ministry of Water Resources gives their approval for the well rehabilitation. A baseline survey and community water, sanitation and hygiene survey were completed.
Information gathered from our baseline survey showes that Moniya has a population of 413 people with 230 of those being children. The majority of the houses are constructed out of mud blocks. The majority of the community are of the Muslim faith. The village has a mosque, but no church. There is no school in the community and the children go to either the Susu Gospel Primary School or SLMB Modia for their education. (Note: The Water Project is actively completing water projects at these two institutions to ensure that children will have safe water access at school, as well as at home.)
The people of this community are primarily farmers. Some share a garden area with the neighboring village of Madina. They have a tremendous garden area that spans several acres. The average amount of time spent collecting water is two hours. Half of the community has a dish drying rack. Most have latrines. About 3/4 of the houses have a specific bathing area. Most have a clothsline. Most do not have a hand washing station and there was no evidence of soap. Most households have a rubbish pit and a kitchen. Most store their water containers off of the ground. It is very interesting to note that not just for this community but for others that we are seeing so many houses with clotheslines. We questioned the community about this and they said that they had been sensitized on a daily basis by Partners in Health about the good idea to not dry their clothes on the ground to prevent skin infections. PIH sensitized this area about Ebola and how to prevent it.
WELL REHABILITATION/TECHNICAL: This well was constructed by the community this past year. It was a seasonal well, forcing people to go to the swamp for their water. The community contacted us requesting that we assist them to deepen the well, as they had no more funds available and they were feeling quite desperate. Four new casing were constructed outside of the well and were lowered into the well with assistance from community members. The inside of the well lining was also repaired. The four new casing were sunk which gave the community a good supply of water.
Materials were delivered to the community for the team to return to complete the plastering and when the team arrived, the community had already plastered the well, constructed the drain and plastered the wall surrounding the well which was already there prior to the well rehabilitation. In addition, the community constructed a safety door for the well. There was really great participation on the part of the community. The digger submerges himself so he can get a shovel full of dirt, comes up and dumps it into a cut rubber. Once that rubber is full, it is hoisted by pulley to the surface by many guys pulling on the rope and then is dumped while another rubber is sent down the hole to repeat the process until there is seven feet of water available.
The well was chloriated and water quality testing revealed that there was no fecal choliform.
HYGIENE TRAINING: We use a Participatory Hygiene and Sanitation Training (PHAST) model. We have coordinated our hygiene training with volunteers from Partners In Health. Partners in Health has suspended their operations in the chiefdom, but we've decided to work with and train some of their volunteers because they have been active in these communities during Ebola and are familiar with the communities and because they had been trained on giving the key ebola message. As of the beginning of this project, Ebola was still present in this country and it was important that we remained vigilant in continuing to bring forth this message. However, at the time of the hygiene training, the country had reported a week with no positive ebola testing, which was such a cause for celebration.
The hygiene training took place on the 17th of July. There were 98 adults and 103 children who attended the training. It was a very large and excited group. Within the past two weeks, the government had lifted the ban on public gatherings. It was so exciting to be in this village to do this training! The ladies and children were dancing and singing. This is a big part of who Sierra Leoneans are. They are a lovely people.
The training began with both Christian and Muslim prayer. Sierra Leone is the most religiously tolerant country in the world. Everyone gets on well with each other. It's really a beautiful depiction of the heart of the Father.
Our trainer for this training, Zainab, began by encouraging the conversation around how the community saw their environment. Some said it was good, others said it was not good, that they lacked safe drinking water at the present time and had to go to the swamp to fetch water and that was a real strain on people. They also said that some people didn't have latrines.
During the training, the importance of keeping the water safe for drinking was discussed. The most important way to keep water safe is to be sure that your container is clean and that you are washing your hands with soap and water as you are handling your water. Don't put your cup on the ground. Have more than one cup available for people to drink from. Children should be encouraged to put their cup up when they are finished drinking. Different handwashing techniques were discussed and the use of the tippy tap was introduced. The commmunity really liked this idea and asked if we could return to help them make some for their own houses. We agreed to do that. The community will provide their own one gallon containers and we will provide the rest of what is needed. They were really excited about this. We talked about where handwashing stations should be located and when is the best time to wash your hands. They were a very active group.
Good and bad hygiene pictures were showsn to the community which led to discussions about how you could turn bad hygiene into good hygiene and which types of bad hygiene practices shown in the picture were present in this community. They said that they were guilty of drying their clothes on the ground and that it caused their skin to itch. Some of the children had runny noses and their bellies were swollen, most likely due to worms. A good number of the mothers who were present were either breastfeeding small babies or were pregnant. With the number of restrictions during this ebola outbreak, there was a lot of time where families had to be at home, so there are many "ebola babies".
The group was shown some pictures which could be turned into a story. This lesson is called disease transmission stories. They worked in small groups to discuss what they saw in the pictures and which order they felt the pictures should go. They then presented their stories to the larger group. There was a quite a bit of laughter as the group said that a person in one of the pictures had defecated on the ground and then then fowl stepped into it. Laughter errupted. We had to pull the group in and asked if this happened in their community. They said yes. We then talked about what can happen and they got serious about the lesson and the presenters began again.
Lessons learned from the hygiene lessons were discsussed with the group. They appreciated what they learned and asked if we would continue to come back and spend time with them to help them develop their community in a healthy way. We agreed to come back again and told them that once the well rehabilitation was completed we would be coming back from time to time to do monitoring and evaluation on the well. They appreciated this.
INTERVIEWS: Because the day of the interview there were very heavy rains, people gathered on the veranda of one of the houses. As our team member began asking questions, people chimed in with their responses of how thankful they were and how much they appreciated the intervention by The Water Project and Mariatu's Hope.
The interviewees stated: "In the first case, we want to thank God for making it possible to get this water well in our community rehabilitated. This new source of getting our drinking water is more better than the old one. The old water source is the swamp and it is very far from the village. You can walk over a half a mile to get water from the swamp and then the water is not pure because it is from an open source and people are using it to wash their bodies and launder their clothing. We are using it because it is the only source of fetching water. It is only God who has protected us from drinking bad water. One thing that is frustrating is that so much time is spent fetching water and then you'll be very close to the village and slip on the dirty and lose most of the water from your bucket and will have to turn around and return to the swamp to refill it. This is very frustrating. We are so thankful to God for Mariatu's Hope and The Water Project to come and see our need and for giving us clean and pure water that will protect our lives and our children. May God bless you!"
We have included pictures of those interviewed below.
EVANGELISM: We believe that what you live speaks louder than words. Communities hear the Gospel and then receive empty promises. We believe in sharing our faith with those we encounter, but more important than that is to take time to meet with people, to hear what's on their hearts and to share the love of Christ with them. We shared the Gospel at the dedication with several people raising their hands. We will partner with Rev. Sam Sesay of Susu Gospel Ministries to show the Jesus video after the rainy season, as the weather is too unpredictable right now, as it is still the rainy season. We've encouraged those who raised their hands to venture down to Modia where the Susu Gospel Ministry has a church which is not too far from this village.
FINAL REPORT: We visited the community on the first of September 2015 for the dedication of the water well. As we gathered the community together, we noticed that there was not the big crowd that we were expecting. We later found that many people were at prayer. We shared the Gospel at the dedication and people expressed their thanks and appreciation for the timely intervention. We thanked the community for their active participation in this project, from the manual labor to the feeding of the team, to participating in the hygiene training. The community sang some songs of praise and there was both Christian and Muslim prayers offered.
CHALLENGES: This well was rehabilitated during the rainy season, which is the time of year to rehab a well in this part of the country. It's opposite from the rest of the other districts where we've operated. Rain dampened our ability to work on this well every day. When the rains come, it makes the rope and the ground slippery. We must always put the safety of our team and community before completing any project.
One of the other big challenges was getting the Ministry of Water Resources to come and verify the work. We share the Ministry between two districts and they were in the process of adding staff to the Port Loko District.