Diarrhea, Vomiting and Cholera sweep Border towns in Sierra Leone

By Mustapha Sesay, mustaphasesay25@yahoo.com
The plight of residents living in the border towns of Sierra Leone is becoming worrisome as reports make rounds that an outbreak of acute vomiting and cholera is affecting them which have attracted the attention of medical staff and some Humanitarian organizations

Reports of the notion was first revealed by one of the local newspapers “Salone Times” with the caption “Cholera Outbreak hits Northern Sierra Leone’ with special reference to the Kambia and Port Loko Districts. This town (Kambia) borders Sierra Leone with the Republic of Guinea. Two weeks after this report, a Journalist by the name of Saidu Bah of Awoko Newspaper was opportune to visit the Southern border towns of Sierra Leone where he witnessed acute diarrhea and vomiting cases and most of the parties were receiving treatment under mango trees and others offering shade.
Pictures taken by him and shown over National Television last week confirmed the magnitude of the epidemic and the urgent need for the government and other humanitarian organizations working towards combating the spread of the diseases to employ all measures to bring the threat under control.
Speaking to our northern correspondent Sahr Gbanga who visited Kambia and Port Loko District to get first hand information about the nature of these diseases, he first of all attributed the problem of quickly and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene practices in most remote areas visited.
According to him, there is adverse effect of the dry season on the availability of clean drinking water to these towns and villages. The absence of pipe borne water has left most of the residents with no option but to use stream and well water. Unfortunately, at the peak of the dry season most of these shallow wells are dried up and the streams are either very shallow or are also dried up.

The few that do continue to flow are overcrowded and populated as the scramble for water is the order of the day. In some of these remote parts, young girls have to walk long distances to get water for their domestic purposes. Mr. Banga highlighted the constraints involved in getting water. In one or two areas, the shallow streams are greenish with spirogyra or mud in the wells. This has not served as barriers to the deprived people as they scope every particle in the well and carry it to their towns Speaking to Fatu Kamara, a sixteen year old girl on how they purify the water before drinking, she informed him that for years now they only take the water home and allow the particles to settle before drinking as there is no time for purification.
In another town where a stream flows, he witnessed the deforestation along the banks for farming and various activities like washing, laundering and even the
washing of feaces by a suckling mother. This same stream according to him runs through other villages, and he was astonished to travel along it for a mile to find others getting it for consumption purposes. It was at this point he came toconclude that man was at a point in time contributing to his/her own predicament as a result of nature.
In the Southern border town of Pujehun District, Sulima town, another reporter Gbessay Juldeh noted some of the features. To his astonishment, most of the
victims were suffering from excessive vomiting and acute diarrhea. Most of those affected were helpless as a result of dehydration or loss of energy. Moving from one village to the next in Sorogbema Chiefdom, there was lamentation of the death of family members from the epidemic and the call on government and other humanitarian intervention to halt such a plague and avert it in the future.
It must be noted that at the peak of the dry season, access to affordable and quality water is a problem in most parts of the continent. In Sierra Leone, the urban towns like Freetown, Bo, Makeni and Kenema to name a few, can go without pipe borne water for days and even where it is possible, hardly is it enough for all the inhabitants. With this, it should not be a surprise for provincial towns and remote villages to be affected with this problem. The reason being that resources are not yet ripe to move away to these places and install pipe borne water that are well
purified for drinking.
It must also be noted that most of the border towns are mainly populated with over 30,000 people roughly in some of these places because of trade and agricultural activities.
Furthermore, the outbreak of this acute vomiting and diarrhea occurred at a time when the Community Health Officers and Community Health Assistants downed tools in most of the clinics in these remote areas. Like in the Northern town of Kambia and Pout Loko Districts the causes of the
epidemics in the Board Town of Pujehun District according to our reporter is related to the lack of quality water, Hygiene and sanitation facilities. With shallow wells, the residents have no option but to drink contaminated water, most defecate in the open or the few toilets are not ideal for human usage, and resident at this time of the year are more interested in their farming activities than that of sanitation in the towns.

To address this problem in the boarder towns, the following measures needed to be taken into consideration: there must massive sensitization and awareness on the need to live a clean environment free from pollution. Pit latrines should be constructed by every householder and the people admonished on the dangers of open defecation. Stream water must be used wisely during the dry season as it is a major source for the spread of diseases when contaminated. Government and humanitarian organizations must construct water wells in remote areas and encourage medical staff like Community Health Workers with drugs and other incentives in order to be dedicated and committed to their work. It is believed that when such precautions are taken, diseases related with water, sanitation and hygiene would be addressed or curtailed.

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