Water is a basic necessity which humans, animals and plants need on a daily basis for their survival.
Over the years, access to clean, safe and pure drinking water in Sierra Leone, not least Freetown the capital, has been a big challenge for millions of inhabitants, especially during the dry season.
The Ministry of Water Resources, including the Guma Valley Water Company and the Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO), has failed to provide the direly needed commodity for the country.
Mount Aureol community, which hosts Fourah Bay College, is currently grappling with accessing clean, safe and pure drinking water.
On a fact finding mission to the community last Saturday, this reporter witnessed the struggle of mostly women and children in their quest to access clean and safe water.
Adama Sesay, a women in her mid-20s, told Concord Times that the only source of water is a hand-dug-well and that the owner charges Le2,000 for a full five-gallon jerry can of water. This, she said, adds the economic burden to an already desperate economic reality in the country.
She said during the raining season their constraint to access water is lessened but not in the dries, as about 15,000 depend on a single bore hole to access water.
“This water well was dug by the youth of the community. The government hasn’t done anything to address our water problem despite the so many cries of stakeholders of this community,” she said.
Abdul Turay, who owns the borehole, said it was dug in 2002 with the support of some youths in the community.
“We did it to alleviate the water crisis in the Mount Aureol community. Had it not been for this water well, the people would have starved to death because we cannot access the Guma Valley pipe-borne water here,” he said, and added that the Guma Valley Water Company only supplies Fourah Bay College and not neighbouring settlements.
“People come to access water here on a 24-hour basis. Sometimes I do assist the young girls and boys so that they could get some time to study at night,” he said.
He, however, refuted allegation that people pay Le2,000 to access water from the borehole, although he conceded they pay Le500 per a five-gallon of jerry can.
Meanwhile, when Concord Times brought this development to the attention of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Water Resources, Mani Koroma, he claimed not to know that particular area. “I don’t have enough time for you Mr. Reporter, give me some time to talk to the people at the Guma Valley Water Company because they are responsible to supply water to the city,” he said rather nonchalantly.
Adam Smith International, a United Kingdom charity, supported the Government of Sierra Leone in implementing the National Water and Sanitation Policy with funds from the Department for Foreign and International Development since 2010.
They also facilitated the mapping of close to 30,000 water points to enable the government plan for servicing communities. As a result, 35% of the country’s rural population reportedly now has access to a reliable water supply.
Adam Smith also manages a water, sanitation and hygiene facility courtesy of a £5 million disbursed among 36 projects across 14 districts. As a direct result of their intervention, more than 3 million people – or 60% of the nation’s citizens – now have access to a safe and reliable water supply, an increase of 20% since the project started.
An African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW) report published in 2011 titled ‘Water Supply and Sanitation in Sierra Leone-Turning Finance into Services for 2015 and Beyond’, stated that over the three-year period 2010-2012, the GoSL was expected to increase its spending in the water sector from Le34 billion (US$9.3 million) in 2010 to Le46 billion (US$12.1 million) by 2012.
The report disclosed that major donors for the water sector include the AfDB, BADEA (US$4m), DFID (£35m), EU (€7m), Islamic Development Bank, JICA, UNICEF (US$2.9m) and the World Bank (US$52m).
The central focus of aid has been on rehabilitation of water infrastructure and building capacity to own and drive sector activity. For example, US$45 million (£30 million) in DFID support to the sector includes activities in sector harmonisation, capacity building, water resources management, and implementation of the National Water Policy.