Tales from End to End
The Sierra Leonean’s Tale
by Rev Francis Nabieu
Sierra Leone is found on the west coast of Africa. It shares a border with Guinea in the north and east and with Liberia in the south-east. The current population is estimated at 5.7 million with most of the people living in the towns of Freetown, Bo, Kenema and Makeni. The country is just recovering from an eleven year civil war which devastated the whole nation. Thousands were killed and up to two million were displaced. Many suffered appalling mutilations.
Sierra Leone is blessed with rich natural resources of diamonds, titanium ore, bauxite, iron ore and gold, yet it remains among the very poorest of all nations in the world. The country is ranked 180 out of 182 according to the UN Human Development Index.
The country is not able to feed itself even though it has about 5.3 million hectares of arable land and this food deficit is attributed to low productivity, poor traditional farming methods and inadequate funding for agriculture. Remote villages in the Bonthe District suffer especially badly with adults receiving on average only 1.3 meals a day. Conditions worsened during the civil war.
The health sector has suffered the same neglect as agriculture. Life expectancy is only 47 years; almost one in ten children die before their first birthday and a third of five-year-olds are underweight. Women face additional health problems arising from their reproductive role and lack of access to health facilities. Malnutrition is a major factor for high maternal mortality.
Lack of clean water and the inadequate and appalling sanitation facilities largely explain the dismal health situation in the country. Only half the population has access to safe drinking water and the inadequate sewage and refuse disposal facilities cause the spread of water-borne diseases and malaria. The prevailing scene in rural communities such as Pujehun is one in which women and children carry pails of water from crude unsanitary, hand-dug wells or standing pools of water. Rivers are used in many communities but these rivers are used for all sort of things such as bathing, cooking, laundering and also as toilets. Even where water is available, wells and rivers dry up for part of the year. Worst still for the Pujehun area, 60% of the wells were contaminated during the war when dead bodies were thrown into these wells by the rebels. This situation resulted in severe diarrhoea and cholera on the return of the people to the villages.
What will a clean water project achieve?
It is sometimes said that health is wealth. Without good health both education and agriculture will not succeed. Therefore providing safe drinking water in communities like Pujehun will have a positive impact on both the educational and agricultural systems in the whole of the district. In general, a clean water project:
- will encourage people to return to their villages and start farming again
- will help save unborn children
- will help save the lives of pregnant and lactating mothers
- will save women and girl children having to walk long distances for water
- will help to create a healthy community by reducing water-borne diseases
- is a way of contributing to national rebuilding of the country
- affirms partnership, fulfilling the biblical mandate to bear one another`s burdens.
Bonthe and Pujehun Districts are among the poorest in the Sierra Leone. Christian Aid’s Partners are working in both these areas to improve farming methods and to provide clean water and basic sanitation. The money raised by John and Nancy’s Walk will be used in these projects and will dramatically improve the quality of life for poor and marginalised rural communities. Clean water is life and therefore any contribution you make will be helping to save life.
Rev Francis Nabieu is a former President of the Methodist Conference of Sierra Leone and is currently attached to Clifton Moor Church, York, which, co-incidentally, was the Church that Nancy was largely responsible for setting up in 1993.