By Allieu S. Tunkara
A ditch at Calaba Town community overflows with solid and liquid waste and flies and rats as well as other rodents hover and feed on the dirt and sojourn there. The dirt keeps on increasing every passing day as there is no tricycle to or sanitary workers to convey the dirt to dustbins.
The community is a hard-to-reach one meaning it is extremely difficult for the dirt to be deposited in the right places. From the dustbin or ditch, the animals enter bedrooms and stay with humans.
At night, they roam the rooms in search of plates and other household utensils on whose remnant they feed. In the process of survival, they become a danger to the human beings as they inject some germs to be consumed by the humans. It is a symbol of parasitism.
The situation, with no use of hyperbole, presents a health disaster to the community. An inhabitant Adama Kamara has not reserved her words and emotions about the dirt in the ditch.
To her, the dustbin poses a serious health threat to the community but it very hard to be solved. In an interview recently, she told Nightwatch that she had been discouraging residents in the community from depositing dirt in the ditch considering its potential to wreak havoc on residents.
Adama’s house is just a stone throw to the ditch now used as dustbin and she is the most vulnerable. The presence of children in the house makes the case worse as children cannot decide where to go and where not to go. She also explains how she frequently embarks on some voluntary cleaning exercises to do away with the dustbin.
“Most times, I use a cutlass and a shovel to reduce the filth especially when it wants to overflow so that it cannot cause more problem to the health of others,” she said.
Despite the painstaking effort, Adama cannot solve the problem at the dustbin and it grows daily as filth comes from different directions. Apart from the problem of filth, the ditch as dumpsite is also associated with other disasters that continue to hunt houses.
Adama narrated a disaster in which a house was collapsed by the raging water whose passage was blocked by the dirt. A lady and her children whose house was affected had cause to move and sought safe haven elsewhere. Other houses in the vicinity also stand on the threshold of being washed away if reasonable steps are not taken to clear or control the dumpsite.
Unregulated housing also worsens the ditch-as-dumpsite problem as sanitary services hardly penetrate in such communities. Freetown City Council (FCC) is in charge of Sanitation and hygiene in the municipality, and has enacted a by-law to do effectively carry out its mandate on sanitation.
Other hard-to-reach communities also are affected by the problem of poor sanitation and lack of approved dumpsites for depositing filth.
Moa Wharf, Mabela, Shell Pipe Line, Kroo Bay, Susan’s Bay and others still grapple with the age-old problem. Since essential services especially tricycles and sanitary workers could not penetrate to the communities the situation becomes terrible for one to stay there.
Ministry of Lands and Country Planning is in charge of land administration in the city, and has declared such communities unfit for human habitation. The official says a land was provided for the construction of a settlement for the relocation of people in slums and other hard-to-reach communities to solve the problem of unregulated housing and overflown dustbins.
It can be expressed without any fear of contradiction that a close nexus exists between dense population and uncontrollable dustbins in a community. It is the pursuance of this objective that a Bye-Law was passed to ensure that high sanitary standards are maintained in the city.
Pursuant to section 90 of the Local Government Act, 2004, FCC promulgated the Municipal Bye-Law of 2010 to get rid of filth, but the problem still remains. The law prohibits the unreasonable disposal of waste by any person in any part of the municipality.
In Section 3(1) of the bye-law, it says no person shall throw, deposit or dispose of garbage in any street, public place or unauthorised place. Subsection 2 of the law prohibits a driver or person in charge of a vehicle from which garbage is thrown into any street, public place or unauthorised place. Subsection 4 provides for the punitive measure to be meted to anyone who contravenes the law.
“Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this clause commits an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding Le500, 000 (five hundred thousand Leones) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both such fine and imprisonment.
The existence of the law means FCC has a fine legal framework to upkeep sanitation in the city, but its enforcement remains one of the biggest problems. Many questions have come up about the deteriorating sanitation in the city in the face of a fine law to regulate same.
A sociologist and social researcher, Felicia Kamara says the laws are there, but they are not enforced.
She told Nightwatch that they were fed up with the problem of filth in certain communities in Freetown. Madam Jusu compared the sanitary situation in Freetown to that of other cities in Africa which, she said, she had visited.
In the comparison, Freetown was placed at the bottom rung considering its hygiene standards. Madam Kamara says she is not pleased with the pile of filth in the ditches, but she is most disgusted when dead animals are deposited there making communities very unsafe.
“The odour produced by carcasses especially dogs is very difficult to put up with. The situation is a serious health problem,” she said.
As the problem of insanitation continues to worsen in the city, madam Kamara pointed accusing fingers at FCC for not taking stiff measures to stop ditches being used as dumpsites. She narrated her experience when she visited the city of Kenya, Nairobi where a Mayor was held accountable for the deteriorating situation.
Sorie Alpha Kamara is the Environmental Health and sanitation Officer at FCC. Mr Alpha admits that the use of ditches as dumpsites is rampant in the municipality, but council has put measures in place to stem the tide.
One of these measures is the provision of sanitary baskets to prevent littering on the streets, but he said, the baskets are being misused by some members of the public.
“The sanitary baskets are meant for ordinary wastes such as plastic waste and papers and not for dead animals. But, sometimes most people in the municipality deposits carcass in the sanitary baskets which is a misuse,” the Environmental Officer explained. He also however admitted the existence of the municipal Bye-Law which he said was borrowed from the Public Health Ordinance of 1960 as well as the Amendment Act of 1978.
“The law and its amendment make it crime for one to throw dirt on the street,” he explained.
When asked why the law is not enforced despite the city is filled with filth owing to the proliferation of illegal dumpsites, Mr Kamara responded that the enforcement of the law has been thwarted by politics.
He however declined to go deep down as to how politics has affected the enforcement of the law. The FCC Environmental Officer equally does not lose sight of the limited number of dumpsites in the city citing the Kissy Granville Brook (Bomeh) and the King Tom dumpsites as the only recognised ones in the municipality.
The small number of recognised dumpsites, he says, is a cause for the creation of several dumpsites in the city which has become an eye-sore. Apart from the limited number, he went on, the dump sites, by all standards, can no longer hold all the dirt generated in the city.
“We are just managing up the situation, but the two dumpsites have exceeded their capacity,” the Environmental Officer explained.
He also spoke about the health hazards associated with the proliferation of dumpsites in the city.
“Communicable diseases such as: Cholera, typhoid, dysentery, Covid, Ebola etc. are associated with poor disposal of waste and low hygiene in communities,” he said.
Mr Kamara also pointed out rampant floods caused by the dirt as another disaster associated with the use of ditches as dumpsites. “Floods, most times, lead to loss of lives and properties in various communities in the municipality,” he asserts.
A number of youths, he said, had been employed and trained as public health officers to monitor the health and sanitary situation in the city.
The provision of more dustbins and the relocation of Bomeh Dumpsite to Hastings community in the outskirts of Freetown and other measures for the eradication of filth in the city have been embarked upon by FCC.
It is clear that World Bank is ready to fund the relocation as long as the land is secured.
The public anxiously waits to see it happen.