Feb 15, 2015

After Ebola, Sierra Leone Government Decides to Provide Schools with Water


The Sierra Leone Government has decided to provide schools with water and sanitation facilities before they reopen, following the now-seven month shutdown due to the Ebola oubreak. At top-level State House consultative meetings on January 21 and February 2, officials from the Ministries of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) and Water Resources made the commitment. The deputy Minister of Water Resources, Alhaji Foday Bayoh, unveiled a programme called "Washing Schools" to provide water and sanitation facilities to educational institutions.

Exactly how the government plans to provide the hundreds of  primary, JSS and SSS schools around the country with water is unclear. The Guma Valley Water Company serves the capital and neighbouring areas of the Western Area only, and has been plagued in recent years by water shortages. A few of the district capitals have erratic pipe borne water supply, but most of the country relies on wells, rivers and streams for their water supply. Much of this water is unsafe to drink. There has been talk of providing boreholes to institutions around the country, but these are expensive to drll and, given the numbers involved, would require substantial time to complete. Boreholes are reputed to provide better-quality water than wells, but are dug to much greater depths and use more sophisticated technology.

During the seven-year tenure of the government leading up to the Ebola crisis there was little indication that provision of water to schools was a priority (read Prince of Wales School, Symbol of a Dysfunctional System). Millions of dollars were spent on hastily conceived four-lane road projects (read natinpasadvantage) and millions more were committed by executive fiat to solar projects and a grand new airport at Mammamah (read Do We Really Need a New Airport at Mammamah), but there was little mention of provision of water for schools. Until Ebola. Meanwhile, even as the government attempts to fulfil this new commitment, there are similarly hundreds of health centers around the country without pipe borne water, along with hundreds if not thousands of villages and towns.