By Malcolm Sesay
Struggle for water in urban Freetown is creating another economic challenge for families and country as increasing rate of teenage pregnancy is linked to girls having to leave the confines of their homes in search of water in the night.
Waste water management could be vital in addressing water scarcity challenges in Sierra Leone.
A United Nations report launched on Wednesday in Durban, South Africa, on the occasion of World Water Day, highlights that improved management of wastewater is essential in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The report, “It’s all about carefully managing and recycling the water that runs through our homes, factories, farms and cities,” said Guy Ryder, the Director-General of the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Chair of UN-Water, urging for reducing and safely reusing more wastewater.
“Everyone can do their bit to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal target to halve the proportion of untreated wastewater and increase safe water reuse by 2030.”
In Freetown, most of the communities struggle to get pipe borne water in the dry season (November – June) causing young people, mostly teenage girls, moving from one community to another for pipe borne water.
Sao Lamin, chairman of Consortium of Civil Societies for Safe and Available Drinking Water told AFP on Friday in Freetown, says the situation could be as a result of the current scarcity to delayed rainfall as well as massive deforestation and people constructing houses adjacent to the water catchment sites.
“The water crisis is worsening by the hour,” he disclosed to Daily Mail.
According to 2013 UNICEF Evaluation report on Sierra Leone: ‘An Evaluation of Teenage Pregnancy Pilot Projects in Sierra Leone’, “Teenage pregnancy and motherhood has been identified as the second most prevalent child abuse practice in Sierra Leone. It constitutes a national and community-wide problem, with a prevalence of 68 percent pregnancy rate among sexually experienced teenage girls, with a mean age of 15, and 28 percent of teenage boys having caused a pregnancy”.
Memunatu Conteh, a single mother of three, always left early in the morning to do business and returned in the evening while her daughter takes care of the house after she returned from school.
“One day I returned home and met her sick. I took her to the doctor and shocked to hear she was pregnant,” she said, adding that a neighbour’s daughter later disclosed to her that her daughter was meeting with a boy after she left the house to fetch water at night.
At the peak of the water scarcity, most of the communities in the East of Freetown could only get pipe borne water supply at night causing throngs of young people spending the whole nights in queues.