The Newton Orphanage got its first improved pit latrine on Thursday, 13 October 2016 since it was established seven years ago in 2010.
Imagine living in a house with at least 20 occupants and that too little girls and boys with no proper basic sanitary facilities such as a toilet. What is more worrying is the appalling unhygienic conditions that these children are exposed to, every single day.
This was the situation with a deprived Newton Amputee community located just outside the capital, Freetown. Not only did they not have proper toilets, their children, irrespective of age and grade all schooled in a single room. This is also the case for many other slum communities in Freetown suburbs.
The World Bank 2012 statistics states that only 13% of Sierra Leone 6.4 million population have access to improved sanitation facilities.
When a team of UN Volunteers visited the orphanage on 16 June to observe this year’s Day of African Child, their aim was to donate food and non- food items to both orphans and non- orphans in the camp.
The team was inspired by a 10 year-old, Kadiatu Kamara of class four who spoke on behalf of her colleagues.
“We have no proper toilet.” Kamara said. “We are badly in need of one,” She stressed.
The orphanage is also home to some children spared by the deadly Ebola virus disease that claimed the lives of their dear parents. Others are children of amputees and war wounded who lost their limbs and hands during Sierra Leone’s decade long civil war that ended in 2002.
Moved by their plight, UN Volunteers provided financial and technical assistance for the construction of a two pit latrines and two bathrooms for both sexes.
The community too volunteered with their skills, and contributed free labour to get their first befitting toilets and bathing facilities since the establishment of the orphanage.
“Open defecation was a common sight especially at night,” a female member of the community reported. “We are grateful because we would no longer have to share toilets with the patients who come to the nearby Health Centre.”
The latrines would serve not only the 20 children and their care givers but also a large number of children attending the community school with them.
UN Volunteers Programme Officer Allan Young, said the he was personally touched by the passion and commitment demonstrated by the community youth who worked for free for the project.
“They have proven that even the most difficult challenges faced by communities can be addressed through people-centered solutions that are owned by the communities.” Said Mr. Young.
Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people to tackle development challenges especially in deprived communities in Sierra Leone.