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Sierra Leone News: Need To Overhaul Guma!

The many unresolved challenges over the decades, from one regime to another, definitely keep coming back hitting us on the head and giving us long spells of dizziness as a nation. The rains have started but many people still thirst for pure drinking water. When one considers that the water Ministry does not receive a fair share of the National Budget, it is obvious that Guma Valley will continue hiding their inefficiency tightly behind insufficient resources as they have always been doing. The irony of the whole situation is that some 70 % of diseases in our country are water borne. Is the Ministry of Health alarmed here?
African communities may go without electricity for ages, but they definitely cannot afford to go without water for even a day. This is why I find it ludicrous that the UN World Water Day is in March. We all know March is the driest month in most West African countries. I see it as a biting irony since that is the time Sierra Leoneans forage all over the place to have a drop of water to utilize for various purposes. When each year our Government marks the World Water Day, I find it really sickening to see the kind of mockery our state actors put serious issues to, especially issues impacting on the very survival of the ordinary foot citizen who fends day by day to survive.
At the height of Ebola, Government tried to put some giant size Milla tanks in depraved areas in the city. However many more areas never got them, mostly from Kissy to the Orugu Bridge which is the boundary of Western Area Urban which is part of Freetown.
To complicate matters for us, climate change and the negative behavior of lawless persons on the environment continue to leave untold dire consequences. The water challenge remains perhaps most critical. Now the rains have started but drinking water will remain a huge challenge. Why the Ministry of Water Resources cannot harvest water in the rains like other countries do, is left for them to say. Obama was right when he says that if you have been doing something for fifty years and it did not work, then it was time to do something different. But in Sierra Leone we are so averse to change that we will prefer to hang on to unworkable ideas and think God will bring about the change. No! We all know that Guma Valley is as old as Freetown cotton tree.  Why should people think that in the 50s when the population was less that 500,000 is the same as the 2000s when we have hit 2 million people where Guma operates? On top of all this, the cutting down of trees even around Guma Dam itself and elsewhere does not help increase rainfall.
For their part the authorities most times stand by hopelessly and helplessly, thinking they cannot do much…how absurd! What has happened to all the reserved forests in the Freetown neighborhoods overlooking our water sources? Look, our country is so blest with so much of everything that we have no reason to be in want. No!  At the height of Ebola I moved to an area in Wellington called Bush Wata. True to its name you find water dripping from underground. The volume reduces in the dries but it still remains the only water source for a very large community. In fact I understand this area polled the highest votes in the last elections in the Western Area. Without this I wonder how people can survive.
Even if Guma had enough water there remains many challenges for water distribution. Just the other day one jingle was telling school kids to wash their hands and get the water directly from the stand pipe. We all know there are very few schools with pipe borne water. The taps in the east had long ceased to exist and those lingering around surely have no water.
Our great Sorie Guma has now proven to be far inadequate to supply water to the city. All this stems from the centralization and concentration of public services in certain areas in the city as if there are people who do not need water at all. The idea that some lives matter less is the beginning of all the problems we have is this world.  Just take a look at developments in the city and you will realize that so much is done in the west side of the city and very little is done in the East end. There is the joke that in the west end you hear hawkers saying fine apple, fine noodles, but no sooner you go beyond the East end Police station, you hear the Hawkers say fine Arata meresin, fine chink ehn kakroach meresin. This is exactly the impression of people about the east end of the city. Never mind the fact that the worst ghettoes and slums and wharfs are in the central and west end of the city.  Just check the greatest Ebola hot spots!
The water problem is as difficult as that of health service delivery. One major issue for the water Ministry if and when there is water, is the kind of pipe they will use to supply the water. The current pipes have been flattened or cut by people in order to get thelittle water trickling through from Guma. We are here dealing with a situation where even if you pay for pipes to be drawn to your compound, you might not get water since your neighbors will cut off your pipe to get water. For them it is like they think water is for all, which you can say is true. “We all need water anyway so why can’t I get”? Funny situation eh?
It is becoming that rampant that garbage is placed into drainages and when the rain comes it sweeps the garbage down to the drainages by the main roads. Some compounds without toilets even use the gutters as their cesspit. The only difference is that there are no pipes leading to the drainage cesspits. The issue is so complicated and it means diseases will have to stay with us for quite a long time. Hey why are we so blest?  We are almost always surrounded by disease but we do not die like flies. One visitor once said that we Sierra Leoneans are immune to filth… can you deny this? You go to Dove cot, go through Guard Street and see where our food is sold from. Our women folk walk in muddy dirt, buy from dirty tables or ground in an all-round filthy surrounding. Of course we can’t talk about flies. They are part of the meat and fish. Oh I once went to the market to buy fish but I could not because when I saw the armies of flies covering the fish I felt too nauseated to buy. Do you know that? We have markets that do not have toilets or water. Can we blame disease keeping us company all the time? When many trees fall on top of each other and you want to remove the first one that fell, you first of all have to remove the ones on top.
By Ben Cambayma
Monday May 08, 2017.

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