Water and Sanitation | Is Sierra Leone On Track for July 2015?

Water, sanitation and hygiene programs were designed to contribute to the United Nations Millennium Development Goal (MDG) for water and sanitation. The goal, which calls for halving the proportion of the world's population without sustainable access to safe drinking water between 1990 and 2015, was met in 2010, five years ahead of schedule. 

While this is a tremendous achievement, in 2012, 748 million people relied on unimproved drinking water sources. 
 Despite progress, 2.5 billion people in developing countries still lack access to improved sanitation facilities.  

Salhajj Tajj reports on the progress of water, sanitation and hygiene services in Sierra Leone and asks whether the July 2015 target can be met. 

Freetown, January 19, 2015 ---Despite efforts by the Ministry of Water Resources, the government may fail to meet its 2015 target on extension of water and sanitation services come July. Amid strides being made by families, communities, and like-minded organizations, there are doubts and questions wondering whether Sierra Leone will meet the Millennium Development Goal target.

People interviewed in the east end of Freetown think the spread of Ebola has stalled projects aimed at improving services on water and sanitation.

Madam Fatmata Conteh of Cline Town said that from the look of things projects are not functioning as a result of Ebola and even if the outbreak is contained it would be difficult to meet the deadline on extension of water, sanitation, and hygiene services.

‘We don’t get regular supply and distribution of water. It’s rationed with intermittent supply twice a week, ‘’ she said.

Ibrahim Dumbuya of Susan’s Bay, a riverine community along the tributary – Rokel, said sanitation and water remain a serious challenge. He explained that the majority of houses in the bay do not have running water and many houses lack sanitation facilities. Something he said that contributes to the high rate of contracting diseases like Ebola. Madam Conteh added that because water facilities are not adequate, this puts children at risk.

Samuel Bangura, the director general of the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO), said that projects for water supply and environmental sanitation have stalled because of the spread of Ebola.

“The Ebola disease has negatively impacted on operations across the country, especially in the provinces and inaccessible urban areas,” Bangura noted.

He said projects, including the “Three Town Water Projects” in Kenema, Bo and Makeni districts, and others in Kailahun, Pujehun, Kabala, Lunsar, Mile 91, Pujehun have all been suspended indefinitely. A significant percentage of SALWACO projects would have been completed had the outbreak not served as a stumbling block, he said.

According to the director general, SALWACO’s projection has always been that district headquarter towns, provincial cities and Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, should have adequate water supply by 2015 to meet the Millennium Development Goal.

Ibrahim Dumbuya uses a tap stand in Susan's Bay
“If we are to succeed as a nation then there is need for government to focus on inspection and identify houses without running water and sanitation facilities,’’ Dumbuya said. He added that if such a move is taken government will be able to plan for its citizens as well as put the necessary structures in place to address water, sanitation, and hygiene services in the country.

Though there has been significant increase in the annual rate WASH service delivery, there is still more to be done.

Minister of Water Resources Momodu Maligie said Sierra Leone cannot manage water resources if we fail to monitor rainfall, groundwater and surface water levels, and the changes in land use. He also said data collection and the results of analysis need to inform water resources management practices that require effective rules and regulations, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities across multiple organizations and at various levels.

The minister emphasized the need for an approach that recognizes health and economic benefits that come from sound stewardship of water and land resources referencing a three year project being undertaken by the government of Sierra Leone with support from Britain’s Department for International Development.

“The project being undertaken involves local stakeholders who all have different concerns about quantity and quality of water resources as the basis for supply, or as the recipient of discharges. The most challenging discussions will be had within the Rokel-Seli river catchments, either upstream or downstream of the Bumbuna dam.

“As a result, we have decided to focus the project initially in this area. The Rokel-Seli catchment represents a microcosm of Sierra Leone’s water resources management issues, and a localized approach ensures that government institutions are not overwhelmed,” the minister said.

Susan’s Bay is one of the riverine communities along the tributary – Rokel.

Some water advocates say building wells and providing access to clean water in communities will bring about lasting changes for children and protect their rights. In response to a similar problem, Plan Cameroon constructed a well with a hand-pump. This made the everyday lives of 900,000 people easier, especially for its 2000 sponsored children.

The world met the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the number of people without access to safe drinking water, well ahead of the 2015 deadline, but over 780 million people still lack access to safe drinking water.

A report issued by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, ‘Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation, 2012 Update,’ revealed that at the end of 2010, 89 per cent of the world’s population used improved drinking water sources. In 2015, an estimated 92 per cent of the global population is expected to have access to improved drinking water.

The Millennium Development Goals are a United Nations initiative. The Millennium Development Goals are eight international development goals that were established following the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, following the adoption of the United Nations Millennium Declaration.


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