Renowned Reggae musician Bob Nestar Marley once said, “in the midst of water the fool is thirsty”, this is exactly the case of majority of Freetownians currently grappling with water shortage in the midst of nature’s abundance.
Day in day out children as well as adults could be seen with five gallon yellow containers crisscrossing the streets of Freetown in search of water.
Water fetchers buzz around public taps and unhygienic drainages for hours only to get few liters to address their daily domestic needs.
In some areas self-proclaimed water tax collectors, extort Le 1,000 for every 25 gallons of water fetched at public taps.
In Freetown, access to water is becoming a privilege rather than a right. According to the United Nations Resolution 64/292, on human rights to water and sanitation the UN General Assembly explicitly recognized the human right to water and sanitation and acknowledged that clean drinking water and sanitation are essential to the realisation of all human rights.
The Resolution further calls upon States and international organisations to provide financial resources, help capacity-building and technology transfer to help countries, in particular developing countries, to provide safe, clean, accessible and affordable drinking water and sanitation for all.
Under this resolution the water supply for each person must be sufficient and continuous for personal and domestic uses.
These uses ordinarily include drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, personal and household hygiene.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), between 50 and 100 litres of water per person per day are needed to ensure that most basic needs are met and few health concerns arise.
However, Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC), which is charged with the responsibility to provide pipe-borne water for both Western Urban and Rural areas, currently supplies 15million gallons of water per day to a population of 1.4million inhabitants.
The current GVWC supply, which is 42 liters per person, falls below the recommended UN threshold of 50 to 100 liters of water per-person needed daily.
Despite the fact that GVWC could not meet the minimum UN threshold, it is sad to know that “25% of the currently supply” could be accounted for as “wastage”, according to GVWC Public Relations Officer, Joseph Musa.
As the crisis heightens, the Sierra Leone Human Rights Commission has issued a release expressing grave concern over the inadequate supply of water.
While Civil Society groups – Heal Sierra Leone and Accountability Now, on the other hand have given a 21 Days ultimatum to GVWC Management to step down if they cannot provide adequate water supply.
As many seek unhygienic alternative water sources, the Deputy Director Nabie Kamara in the Office of National Security (ONS), acknowledged that impure water is a serious security concern.
According to UN the water required for each personal or domestic use must be safe, free from micro-organisms, chemical substances and radiological hazards that constitute a threat to a person’s health.
Though WHO, clearly states that the water source has to be within 1,000 metres of the home and collection time should not exceed 30 minutes, both kids and adult in some areas traverse for hours in search of water.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) suggests that water costs should not exceed 3 per cent of household income, which means that water, and water facilities and services, must be affordable for all, yet people are extorted with impunity by unscrupulous individuals as those in authority look on.