Meet some of the Form 10 students from the Concrete Foundation School in Cotton Tree, Lieberia. They are about to set out on a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) awareness drive in their local community, which they planned with their teachers and our team. Water has always been scarce in Cotton Tree, but recently things become more serious when the last of the functioning wells became contaminated.
Access to safe drinking water and good sanitation should be taken for granted. But imagine for a moment that they were not. Consider how your life would change if you had to fetch water, rather than simply twisting a tap, and that the water you collected was contaminated and dirty. Imagine that you didn’t have access to a toilet and that instead you used the shallows of a forest with over 1,000 of your neighbours; a fog of flies as thick as the smell wards off the conscientious, pushing them back towards the town.
Access to safe drinking water and good sanitation is not about convenience; it is a bareknuckle fight against disease and the perpetuation of dehumanising poverty. It is a fight for the lives and future of the children in the picture above.
Water and sanitation related diseases continue to be one of the leading causes of death for children under five; every day they are responsible for more than 800 fatalities, globally. Cotton Tree makes a tragic contribution. Without a garbage removal scheme, waste piles up, public areas are unkempt and human faeces can be seen throughout the community – few venture into the forest after dark. The relatively costly treatment of preventable diseases is always pitted against education and even food. That is why we have worked to educate young people about the importance of WaSH and how it can ensure better health. Students then became the teachers and spent a day sharing what they had learned, visiting over 300 homes in their community and speaking with over 1,500 people who all received a leaflet outlining the key themes.
The 93 students who participated received fantastic feedback and people said that they would commit to changing their habits. There is still much to do, as Morris Yaseah said, ‘You guys have made my day. But please don’t get tire until our community is clean.’
We intend to continue our work with the students of the Concrete Foundation School and the entire community. We hope to continue our awareness programme and to help provide community latrines and hand washing stations. We are committed to ensuring that the children of Cotton Tree have the opportunities to succeed and to lead their community into a cleaner, more hopeful future.