Sierra Leone government’s new clean Freetown initiative scuppered by criminals

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 May 2017

Young men trained and employed to take on the task of cleaning Freetown, in a new effort to change the image of the city, have been caught using vehicles meant for this purpose to make cash on the side for their own personal gain.

Instead of using the vehicles provided for collecting mountains of rubbish across the city, they are being used as passenger transport. According to official statement, the youths have now been disqualified from the initiative.

This is a statement by the management of Operation Clean Freetown (OCF) on this terrible development: 

“The waste management youth group spotted on Wednesday 17th May, using an Operation Clean Freetown (OCF) tricycle to transport passengers, has been disqualified from the scheme and the tricycle and waste management equipment have been removed from their possession. (Photo: Vehicles meant for cleaning the city are being used as public transport in Freetown).

“As part of the investment in Operation Clean Freetown, over 1000 young people in Freetown and WARDC have been trained and equipped to set up door-to-door household waste collection businesses. They are also receiving ongoing business development support to give their businesses the best chance of success.

“Such an opportunity comes with responsibilities and all the youth groups were required to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with their councillors, and either Freetown City Council or WARDC.

“This MOU set out the terms of engagement, and collective and individual roles and responsibilities of the signing parties to ensure the successful implementation of Operation Clean Freetown in improving the solid waste management situation of the Western Area.

The MOU states that the tricycles provided to the youth groups should only be operated by an experienced licenced driver who is a member of the group, and only used for waste collection and disposal within the designated ward, with sanctions for defaulters.

“When, on Wednesday 17th May, the waste management youth group recruited to service Ward 333 in Goderich, was identified using their ward’s OCF tricycle to transport passengers, members were asked to provide an explanation. Their explanation was judged to be inadequate, and as a consequence, they have been disqualified from Operation Clean Freetown, and the tricycle and the cleaning equipment removed from their possession.

“Under Operation Clean Freetown, over 1000 young people in Freetown and WARDC, many of whom were unemployed, have been given an excellent opportunity to develop a viable waste management business, with potential for growth. Operation Clean Freetown is an important initiative which will help improve public health in the city. Decisive action has to be taken to remove those whose actions threaten its success.

“Saidu Conton Sesay, the Chief of Staff says: “We each have to take individual responsibility for our own achievements and failures in life. Achievement is a combination of self-help, hard work and a willingness to identify and seize the opportunities for education and self-improvement that present themselves. Sierra Leone needs young people who recognise and work according to those principles.”

Will the government’s new clean Freetown initiative succeed?

The Koroma government has got less than 12 months to change the image of Sierra Leone’s capital from one of the filthiest on the continent to a standard that will ward off public health catastrophe and encourage the return of international visitors and tourists to the country.

There are tons of rubbish dumped everyday on street corners, which in many cases have grown into mountains, blocking traffic.

Operation Clean Freetown (OCF) is a partnership between the Freetown City Council and Western Area Rural District Council (WARD C), working with the President’s Delivery Team, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Freetown WASH consortium, to clean up the capital of the tons of rubbish that have accumulated on major streets and in local communities.

The initiative is funded by the Government of Sierra Leone and UKAID. It is aimed at reducing the risk of epidemics by improving solid waste management in the city. Thousands of people die of preventable diseases such as typhoid, cholera and malaria every year. Over 4,000 died of the Ebola virus in 2014/2015.

To improve the capital’s waste management infrastructure, dumpsites at Kingtom and Granville Brook will be flattened and compacted to make more space.

Transit and waste collection points in the Western Area Urban and Western Area Rural will be increased – with at least one in each of the participating wards. Litter bins will be provided in the Central Business District.

Unemployed youths have received skills training and will be provided with 15 months of business development support as well as capital investments, to help them become sustainable businesses.  They are equipped with motorised tricycles, cleaning equipment and tools and customer registration aids to help them get the job done.

Local communities and households are required to get involved in what the management describes as an intensive cleaning process, which will target an average of four wards every two days over a 30-day period.

It is compulsory for all households to subscribe for regular paid waste collection from the youth groups operating in their wards, at a charge of Le2,000 per rice bag, or from an alternative waste management provider.

Youth groups are transporting collected waste to the transit points within their wards. These are then emptied by Masada or Community Clean Association depending on the location.

To facilitate the success of this initiative, the management and Freetown City Council are determined to enforce Local by-laws. They are raising awareness about everyone’s responsibility in keeping the city clean; discussing with the manufacturers and distributors of plastic bags, sachets and bottles, so as to gain their support and commitment to solving the problem of plastic waste. An annual competition will be held to reward the cleanest ward in Freetown.

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