On Friday, 22nd March 2019, Save the Children International, an international non-governmental organisation operating in Freetown, handed over a portable fecal sludge vacuum pump and waste collectors trained to operate it to the Freetown City Council, to support the Council’s efforts to improve the collection and disposal of liquid waste in the municipality.
Mr Sulaiman Kargbo, who works for Save the Children as the Acting Program Manager for the DFID-funded WASH Consortium explains, “We found out that a lot of houses in the municipality either have no toilet facilities or have facilities that are dilapidated. Residents of such houses bring majority of the direct consumable foods to the market, which heightens the chances of contamination and poses great risk to the health of their customers. Therefore, the government will not succeed in its effort to solve health issues if it does not address the underlying issue of poor sanitation. This was why we decided to step in and work with Freetown City Council, since they are in charge of sanitation in the municipality.”
The pilot project, which started in 2017, targeted manual pit emptiers in the Kissy and Thunder Hill areas. The Le 184 million project trained twenty-eight pit emptiers on how to construct toilet facilities and how to use the EvacPump machine, a portable vacuum pump that empties the average cesspool toilet in fifteen minutes. The project also provided barrels and a truck for collecting and disposing liquid waste at the King Tom dumpsite.
During the handing-over ceremony at the Freetown City Council, the waste collectors demonstrated their knowledge of operating the machine by doing a test-run for the Her Worship the Mayor, Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr and the Chief Administrator, Mr Festus Kallay. A representative of the group that was trained, expressed their appreciation for the intervention as it improves the speed and efficiency of their work. The representative went further to say that they need the Council as much as the Council needs them to improve sanitation in Freetown. He says “This is where most of us make our living as we do not have any other jobs. We need the Council to do its job and find the houses where our services are needed, so that we empty them and improve sanitation.”
Addressing those present, the Mayor thanked Save the Children and the staff at City Council for working together to make the project a success. She assured the pit emptiers that the Sanitary Inspectors of the Freetown City Council will provide the demand for their services by regularly inspecting the toilet facilities of properties in Freetown. “What used to happen is that Sanitary Inspectors did not work on Saturdays even though most people are home mostly on weekends. So we have changed their working days and they work from Tuesday to Saturday, so that the residents of Freetown will see them. Inspectors will conduct random checks and Council will take the necessary action against owners of properties without functioning toilet facilities,” explains the Mayor.
The Freetown City Council will, over the next few weeks, sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the pit emptiers to spell out how the operation of the machine will happen, which will include a revenue-sharing agreement. Revenue collected from this venture will be used by Council to pay for maintenance of the machine from a licensed provider recommended by Save the Children International. Save the Children International has provided the pit emptiers with personal protective gear including gloves, boots, masks etc.