Clean Water Flows into Sierra Leone

“Everyone who comes here, I tell them how important this clean water is, and I make sure they use it.”

Sister Hawanatu Jibateh’s health clinic in Mabontor recently received a Bio-sand filter from International Medical Corps’ Sustainable Nutrition and Agriculture Promotion (SNAP) program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Today, she is able to provide her patients with pure water despite her village’s contaminated well.

Unclean water sources are endemic in Sierra Leone, and a principle cause for the proliferation of diseases that cause widespread malnutrition and poor health throughout the country. Many fall victim to these ailments, but there are some who are especially vulnerable, particularly pregnant women and their unborn children.

With the new filters, Hawanatu’s clinic provides a safe environment for expecting mothers. “Now when women come to the clinic, I have clean water to use for them and their babies,”  said Sister Jibateh.

The Bio-sand filters are a marvel of scientific knowledge and represent an innovative development in water and sanitation, combining low-technology solutions with basic materials to create a highly effective system that is not only inexpensive, but also durable enough to function reliably for years in a rugged environment. An installed filter will remove 95 to 99 percent of harmful bacteria from a community’s water source without heavy maintenance or expensive part replacement, as components are gravels and sand and it requires only  a simple cleaning every few years.

SNAP issued filters to 30 rural Peripheral Health Units (PHUs) in its first year and the initiative will continue through the program’s remaining four years. In addition to supplying the filters, the program incorporates an educational aspect, teaching communities about the concept and operation of their filters. This integrated approach reflects USAID’s fundamental goal for SNAP: the enduring development for the people of Sierra Leone.

Clean water can mean the difference between life and death, and Sister Jibateh can already see its impact for the people of her village: “There is a huge improvement in overall health after we started using the filter.”

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