This article was written and published by Augustine Samba – Journalist of the Awareness Times Newspaper on Feb 7, 2014, 17:04
Awareness Times Newspaper is a credible local Non-Governmental print media house that informs the people on current affairs and social issues on a daily basis.
Retrieved from: http://news.sl/drwebsite/publish/article_200524709.shtml on 2/7/2014
This article is focused on the Government of Sierra Leone’s effort to increase all year round access to potable water both within dwelling houses and through Public taps or stand pipes for its population in Lungi, Kafu Bullom chiefdom, Port Loko District, Northern Sierra Leone.
The provision of pipe-borne potable water supply is an excellent initiative and a major stride made by the government of Sierra Leone to increasing access to all year round safe drinking water to citizens of this locality; as this remains the primary responsibility or every state to its populace.
Safe drinking water is a basic necessity that to a greater extent determines the good health of a nation and contributes to the overall wellbeing and quality of life of any type of population while unsafe drinking water can be a significant carrier of diseases such as trachoma, cholera, typhoid, and schistosomiasis, diarrheoa etc. In addition to its association with disease, access to all year round potable water has significant impact on women and children, who bear the primary responsibility for carrying water, often for long distances particularly in rural communities.
Sierra Leone is a country with huge water resources and located on 12 river basins. Five of which are shared with Guinea and Liberia while the seven rivers: Great Scarcies, Sewa, Moa, Rokel, Tia and Little Scarcies are in the country, (Rand McNally, 1993). Moreover, the country also has a number of water falls, streams, lakes, natural springs, etc to address the huge water needs of the its citizens but much has not been invested to tap the great available resources.
According to the Sierra Leone Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (2010, pp 59-61), improved sources of potable water includes: pipe borne water into (dwelling, compound, yard, or plot), public tap/stand pipe, tube well or bore hole, protected hand pump well, protected spring and rain water collection. Nonetheless, only 57% of Sierra Leonean population has access to improved potable water sources; 76% in western area and 48% in the three provinces. Ninety eight percent of the population in the western area has access to improved water sources compared to 48% in the North where Lungi is located. Only 32.5 % of the country’s population has access to water within the dwelling, compound or yard. The most important improved sources of water is the protected well which is only accessed by 34%, 28% and 21% of the population in the East, North and Southern provinces respectively. Surface water, water from streams, unprotected hand dug water wells, springs, ponds, rivers are the mostly used unprotected sources of drinking water.
This appalling water situation in the country is a significant contributor to the cholera outbreak in 2012 that affected 23, 220 and claimed the lives of 300 people countrywide according to the Cholera outbreak, Emergency appeal report, (2013, p. 4.). Therefore increasing access to safe drinking water is a huge contribution by the state to improve the quality of life of its populace.
Apart from all year round access to water being a key contributor to good health and easing the burden of women and girls, Lungi is hosting the country’s current international airport and hence remains the first point of entry into the country by foreign nationals and international partners. The lack of potable water sources in such a community speaks volumes and helps in painting a picture about the country. Therefore is but commendable that the government is investing in this sector and providing such a great resource for her people in this part of the country.
Water Challenges in Sierra Leone (Watch Video)
However, my concern with this great initiative bears on the sustainability or the continued all year round access to pipe-borne potable water being provided to these communities. Sustainability remains a critical factor to assessing the financial and social viability of this investment and its related impact on improving the quality of life of the project beneficiaries both in the short and long term. Sustaining could be challenging if the people for which this resource is provided for are not involved in the decision making process and if adequate awareness and education is not provided for them prior to the completion of the project.
In Relation to the above, I would like to understand which approaches and action steps have been taken to ensure the effective management, maintenance of the water system and the continued provision of potable water to the beneficiary communities through the following?. How is the community going to contribute to the management of the water system upon project completion? How is the water system going to be managed? Who manages it? Who provides for the purification of the water before it is distributed to the community? Who is responsible for replacement of parts and routine maintenance of this system? Are the project beneficiaries expected to pay water bills or rates? How and where do they pay? Who manages the funds?. I am asking all of these questions to help us as Sierra Leoneans think through the use of effective approaches that will enhance effective management, ownership and sustainability of development initiatives after project phase out.
Emergency appeal final report, (2013), Sierra Leone: Cholera outbreak. n° MDRSL003 GLIDE n° EP-2012-000041-SLE, International federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Sierra Leone Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (2010, pp.105-113)