The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has handed over water and sanitation facilities estimated at US$2.6 million to the ministry of energy and power on behalf of the government of Sierra Leone with support from the government of Japan.
These facilities which target about 1,500,000 children under-five years, pregnant women and women of childbearing age in Kono, Makeni and Kabala, is seen as a major contribution by the Japanese to improve maternal and child health through a UNICEF holistic approach to enhance child survival and development.
The Japanese project is geared towards the reduction in child and maternal mortality rates as well as, improvement in school enrolment and retention rates, especially amongst girls, seeks to: expand access to quality primary health care and take to scale malaria intervention and ensure safer child-friendly schools through improved water, sanitation and hand-washing.
During the handing over ceremony in Kono, the minister of energy and power, Lloyd During pointed out that water and sanitation infrastructure had been seriously affected or destroyed during the conflict.
“The gesture from UNICEF and the Japanese Government is a very good start to restore basic services to rural communities who are greatly affected by the lack of access to clean drinking water, environmental sanitation facilities, including hygiene in schools,” he said.
Speaking during the handing over in Kono, the UNICEF representative Geert Cappelaere stressed that the lack of access to safe water and sanitation had many other serious repercussions.
“Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because they are busy fetching water or are deterred by the lack of separate and decent sanitation facilities in schools.
Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, and national economies suffer. Without safe water and sanitation, sustainable development is impossible,” he noted.
The Japanese Government’s assistance has been very vital as the Government of Sierra Leone and UNICEF have further strategically refocused the country programme to strengthen the linkages with other programme interventions to reduce child and maternal mortality. Such timely assistance will help to further consolidate primary health care delivery and play a complementary role in the provision of secondary health care, especially as it pertains to maternal and child health.
The Japanese Government has provided more than US$10 million over the past years to the Government of Sierra Leone and UNICEF to support interventions in three critical areas: health, education as well as water and sanitation
In addition to the provision of water and sanitation, teachers in the target schools were trained on basic well and latrine maintenance.
Teachers have also resolved to commit themselves along with village development committees for the management, care and use of the facilities.