By Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya, Sierra Leone
Climate change or the unfriendly activities of human beings on earth and the environment may be the result of acute shortage of clean and safe drinking water in Sierra Leone and other parts of the continent, causing millions of people including children and women suffer on a daily basis.
The situation of acute shortage of clean water has been experienced in the city and the provincial areas where less concentration is normally given to communities on the part of water and other social basic amenities. In Sierra Leone, the problems of acute shortage of clean and safe drinking water are not only occurring in the deprived communities in the provinces but those communities in the outskirt of the city as well.
Water is an essential commodity and the international community is putting more efforts to it to ensure human beings access safe and clean drinking water.
On September 30th 2010, the UN Human Rights Council adopted by consensus Resolution 64/292 the human right to water and sanitation affirming that water and sanitation are human rights. During this historic meeting in Geneva, the UN affirmed by consensus that the right to water and sanitation is derived from the right to an adequate standard of living, which is contained in several international human rights treaties.
Standard times environmental reporter, Ishmael Kindama Dumbuya travels to communities surrounding the capital city of Freetown and those in the Kambia District and get a first hand information on how the urban, rural and children are struggling to get safe and clean drinking water for their families.
I first travel to Kambia District, a distance of about 150 miles. From Kambia Town, I proceed to rural communities in a village called 15 Mile in the Tonkoh Limba Chiefdom, exactly 15 miles distance from Kambia Town. The village stretches northwards of the chiefdom and it is about 3 miles from the beginning of the Chiefdom. Over 1000 people live here.
There is no community center in this village in case there is a need for social activities or community meetings and gatherings. I spend a night in here and electricity is not something to think about in the village. When a vehicle passes through the village at night, children and adults normally glad when they see the brightness of the vehicle. Absolutely, there is no development here and parents who love their children to attend school send them to other villages like Mile 14 and Sella Kafta before they can get basic primary education.
Like in other communities in the Tonkoh Limba Chiefdom and other parts of the country, there is no water borne pipes or dug water well in the village. The over one thousand people in this village (children, youths and women) must walk two and half miles to fetch water for their daily use. In the morning after a stressful night in a strange village, I proceeded to the community only source of water called Kamaworni with Madam Mabinty Kamara and a class nine year old school pupil.
The water well of about 50 metres round is surrounded by trees and the water level is low and one must go very close to fetch a bucket of water and be careful not to fell into the well. In normal cases, clean and safe drinking water is usually colourless, but this is not the situation here in Kamaworni water site. The community drinking water is colorful and if you are a stranger, you will not have the audacity to take a bucket of water and wash your feet. But the community people who are used to this because of no alternative will do that and drink with confidence.
The clayed water is a host to toads, snakes and other water animals. If you are not used to see these things, you will be scared seeing snakes, toads and other animals dancing and playing in the water while children and women trying to fetch buckets of water for the day’s use. I saw stinky mud which was producing unfavorable smell from the water.
Mabinty Kamara who is married to a husband of this village and now 20 years since she came into the 15 Mile community said they have been facing with such situation of fetching filthy water for their homes. Madam Mabinty knows the water is filthy and not suitable for human beings to drink and do other domestic works. She said there is no alternative for them and “either we fetch clay water and allow it to sentiment for use or we do not get water for our homes at all costs”.
The drinking of the filthy water normally result to sicknesses for the community people and Madam Mabinty said “we do normally sick and because the God almighty is with us, some of these sicknesses are cured by the clay water after persistent drinking”.
Pa Ceray Sorie Kamara is one of the elders of the 15 Mile community.
He also reflected on the past how they have been suffering from the village without clean and safe drinking water for themselves and their children. Pa Kamara said “we have been drinking this water for some time now and we are use to this. We will continue to use to the sad situation if there is no assistance from NGOs, the government of Sierra Leone or any philanthropist individual or institution”.
Pa Sorie is not in favour of his community being left from development by NGOs and the government especially on development concerning water and sanitation. He said “the NGOs like Action Aid in the past ignore them and pass through their community to go and dig community dug-water well taps in other villages.
Pa Sorie adds “they pass us here as if we don’t want water wells. I don’t know if it is because the village is small and even the fact is the village is small, we are still people who need basic needs and clean water”.
After a stressful journey in 15 Mile Village in Kambia, I boarded a vehicle and back in Freetown for another assignment in the Tree Planting community in Leicester Road. The Tree Planting community is overlooking the capital city of Freetown. Madam Adama Fatima in the Tree Planting community in Freetown shares the same experience with Madam Mabinty Kamara who lives in the 15 Mile village.
Madam Adama also don’t use pipe-borne water for her home but will always take her bucket and looks towards a filthy water stream to fetch water for her children and for domestic purposes. She said they have been suffering at the community with no taps to easily fetch water and added that “any day I and my children must come to this filthy and static stream to fetch water.”
The Leicester Road community closer to the Western Area Peninsular Forest is also suffering from acute shortage of water. The watersheds which are the main sources for supplying water to the community and other parts of the city are dry-off because of massive cutting down of trees for settlement.
About two years ago, the National Commission for Social Action (NaCSA) dished out funds over one hundred and fifty thousand Leones for community gravity water taps but these proposed taps never worked for the community. Probably, some of the community elders shared the money among themselves leaving a host of residents to continue struggling for the clean and safe drinking water.
Although there are no known plans set by Non-Governmental Organizations and possibly the government of Sierra Leone to undertake pipe-borne or dug water taps in various parts of the communities overlooking the city and the provincial communities, the Minister of Energy and Water Resources while planting trees recently at the Moku Hills in the Western Area Peninsular Forests Reserve said they recognize that people are suffering to get clean and safe drinking water.
The Minister said as a responsible government, they will ensure they provide water for people in the country.
The only time the communities both in the provinces and some parts of the city can make use of clean and safe drinking water is during the mid of the raining season and if this situation is not corrected and assistance provided, communities in the provinces especially 15 Mile will continue to suffer and struggle to get clean and safe drinking water for their various uses.