SIERRA LEONE: Government to reform Water Act to streamline governance in the WASH sector

By Diana Coker

The Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Annual Review Conference organised by the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation has been officially launched by His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio at the Bintumani Hotel, Aberdeen in Freetown.

President Bio said the conference was timely and hailed the collaborativeeffort to think about ways to improve the lives of Sierra Leoneans through various interventions in the water, sanitation and hygiene sectors.

He said figures had shown that in the past five years, thousands of Sierra Leoneans had died as a result of diarrhoea, typhoid, dysentery, cholera and other water-borne diseases.

WASH is an inter-ministry initiative between the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation that supports the provision of safe drinking water by helping to maintain sanitation and hygiene practices in the country.

President Bio further said his government hasprioritised human capital development but emphasised that the nation might not be able to develop its human capital when it is unable to improve public health outcomes for citizens by increasing their access to safe water and sanitation and promoting health behaviours that would minimise the incidence of disease and death.

He added that mere premature and preventable deaths of some of his youngest and brightest compatriots make this unacceptable rate of morbidity an urgent priority. He said his New Direction government has prioritised human capital development.

He acknowledged the various interventions of development partners in supporting capacity building, water and sanitation sector reforms and using innovative approaches to provide water in rural and peri-urban areas; noting that he was particularly grateful for the impact of WASH interventions and for the retention of young children in schools.

Yet, some schools in urban areas and most in rural communities still lack water and sanitation facilities as well hygiene practices.

Nevertheless, President Bio disclosed that his government was working on reforming the legal and policy framework of the Water Act that would streamline the governance of the WASH sector and provide an enabling environment for inter-ministry collaboration and the facilitation of engagements with multilateral agencies.

Meanwhile, Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Alpha TejanWurie, said the conference was a unique opportunity for all stakeholders to critically assess the status of water and sanitation in the country. He said in order to maintain a proper health delivery service, hospitals and health centres across the country must be provided with functional and running water facilities to address the hygienic needs of patients.

Equally, the Minister of Water Resources, Dr. Jonathan Tengbeh, said the government was determined to provide safe drinking water and improve on the level of sanitation in the country. He said he inherited a sector that lacked sufficient funds and manpower to carry out its mandates. However, he maintained that they were working very hard to implement sustainable water projects across Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) pledged their committment to work with the Government of Sierra Leone to achieveSustainable Development Goal No. 3to provide accessible and safe drinking water to all citizens.