President Koroma is failing woefully to address poor sanitation

The Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 February 2013

The Government of Sierra Leone is failing to keep its promises on funding for sanitation, a new report by the international development charity – WaterAid has revealed. 1.5 million more Sierra Leoneans lack access to sanitation today, than in 1990.

The report warns that unless investment is increased, the challenges of urbanisation, inequality of access, climate change and population growth risk turning back the clock even further.

From 1990 to 2010, the population of Sierra Leone grew by 1.8 million, however only 325,000 people secured access to sanitation over the same period.

In total, over 5.1 million out of 5.8 million people – 87% of the population – are without access to a safe toilet. 27% use shared latrines – while 28% practice open defecation.

With such shocking statistics, will the government take urgent action to increase its spending on sanitation, in order to avert further explosion of public health related diseases in the country?

The ‘Keeping promises: why African leaders need now to deliver on their past water and sanitation commitments’ report, uses the Government’s own figures to demonstrate that funding on sanitation has fallen short of their public commitments.

water poverty1According to estimates from the Government of Sierra Leone, average annual expenditure on water and sanitation almost doubled between 2008 and 2011, and water and sanitation expenditure was on average 1.3% of GDP during that period.

However, expenditure on sanitation was only 0.01% of GDP in 2012(3). This is far short of the 0.5% of GDP that the Government committed to spending on sanitation alone, through the ‘2008 eThekwini African Union declaration’.

Water povertyThe WaterAid report calls on the Government of Sierra Leone, alongside other African governments, to not only meet their 2008 eThekwini spending commitments of 0.5% of GDP, but to go further by aiming to spend at least 1% of GDP on sanitation and hygiene, in line with the recommendations of a 2011 World Bank report.

The United Nations Development Programme has estimated that developing country Governments could be losing as much as 5% of their GDP, because of the lack of access to sanitation and water.

water poverty4This could equate to Sierra Leone losing nearly 500 billion Leones a year.

Apollos Nwafor, WaterAid Team Leader in Sierra Leone said:

“Sierra Leoneans waste 300 million hours every year looking for somewhere to go to the toilet, and you can add to this – the costs of illness and medical bills of those contracting diseases, due to the unhygienic conditions.

“Overall, the loss to Sierra Leone is likely to run into the hundreds of billions of Leones per year. Now is the time for the Government to meet its financial commitments on sanitation, and end sanitation and water poverty and its daily toll on human life, health and livelihoods.”

water poverty3After five years of making public the government’s commitment in tackling poor sanitation and water poverty, little progress has been made on separate budget lines for spending on sanitation and water, which is another key commitment made as part of the eThekwini declaration to improve accountability and track progress.

Millions of dollars spent annually on expensive drugs and health administration in Sierra Leone, to combat childhood and maternal mortality, will remain ineffective, should the lack of access to proper sanitation and clean, safe drinking water continue.

wateraidTo find out more about the report and the work of WaterAid, you can go to:


1 Comment

  1. The sanitation and water problem in Sierra Leone is very serious and yet it’s not being treated seriously. It’s hard to imagine how a compound of hundreds of tenants sharing a single toilet and a bathing room; situated next to the kitchen, which is generally used by all the tenants of that compound.

    And most times the landlords cannot hire the city council to bail and clean up the faeces professionally with the trucks that are designed for that purpose. Instead they would hire those that do the job for less and unprofessionally; by just digging a hole anywhere near the toilet, and then use maybe old buckets or the likes. And a ladder which they would deep in the toilet then one member would step on it and dips the bucket, fills it and passes it to the one next person to him – and so on, like a chain work, then emptied into the hole.

    When they finish, they’d cover the over filled hole as much as they can, and that’s it. And sometimes it rains immediately after the process and causes a whole lot of mess. Tell me, how can civilized people live like this in the capital city and all other big cities? Not to mention rural or remote areas.

    As for the drinking water, most of the population get their water from wells, because there are a few or no water taps. Most of these wells in some areas are surrounded by toilets, because of limited space. And sometimes heavy rains and winds cause filth to get into the wells. So until all these problems are addressed, no medication would be enough to cure the people in this country.

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