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Majority of Sierra Leoneans will access Water by 2015
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Sep 25, 2013, 17:20
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In a bid to address the critical issues of access to water and sanitation coverage in Sierra Leone, the Government has set itself the ambitious policy targets of extending services to the population by 74 % for water and 66% for sanitation by the year 2015.

 

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene are key factors to lifting Sierra Leoneans out of poverty and in promoting socio-economic growth. Despite our available water resources, millions of Sierra Leoneans do not have access to improved water supply or improved sanitation facilities. The situation is even more severe in rural areas which constitute low income communities. The cost to society and the economy is enormous.


Minister of Water Resources Momodu E. Maligi III

 

The Ministry of Water Resources, in partnership with other Ministries, early this year concluded the first national Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Conference to evaluate progress against these targets, with the purpose of taking stock of the current levels of WASH service delivery, lessons learnt and map a way forward. That meant identifying the challenges and opportunities that exist to improve peoples access to safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable water and sanitation services.

 

That Conference provided an opportunity to explore solutions in greater detail and also helped to identify the key issues that Government and its WASH partners must address by way of providing alternative approaches to water supply and sanitation service delivery, as well as monitoring progress towards achieving the national policy targets.

 

OPPORTUNITIES

There are several opportunities for the sector. These include the level of available water resources; a strong commitment to WASH from the political leadership; the countrys peace and stability; significant support from Sierra Leones Development Partners; and increased prioritisation of WASH in the national development agenda; that is, the Agenda for Prosperity (AfP).

 

 CHALLENGES

The biggest challenge is the need to improve accessibility and the sustainability of services through collective effort at national, local and community levels. A wide variety of stakeholders have roles to play to ensure more effective WASH service delivery. It is fair to say that there are some more specific constraints within the sector.

 

Firstly, financial support for the sector remains inadequate, despite recent increases in budgetary allocations.

 

Secondly, enough revenues are not generated to meet the operational and maintenance costs for water supply systems. This seriously impacts on the sustainability of services, particularly for the management of newly installed systems and those to be commissioned shortly.

 

Thirdly, there is a general unwillingness to pay for water supply services among sections of the population, although this must be reconciled with the ability to pay. In addition, inadequate co-ordination, at central and local levels, amongst numerous sector players poses a huge challenge to the effectiveness of the various interventions provided.

 

It should also be stated here, that climate change, along with the negative impacts on water usage through the activities of industrial and mining entities, is another major cause for concern.

 

MAJOR REFORMS

The water sector is undergoing profound transformation and the Ministry of Water Resources, in partnership with other actors, is pursuing a number of reforms.

 

Firstly, steps have been taken to improve water resources management at national, district and local levels, in order to ensure that the countrys water resources are managed in a sustainable manner to assure availability for all users.

 

Secondly, the Ministry is facilitating the formulation of a new legal and regulatory framework and ushering in major institutional reforms; these include upcoming Bills to establish the National Water Resources Management Agency (NWRMA) and the Electricity and Water Regulatory Commission (EWRC) for the efficient management of the countrys water resources, and amendments to the SALWACO and Guma Valley Water Company Acts.

 

Thirdly, the Ministry is working to improve coordination and harmonisation of WASH sector activities by all stakeholders. Improvements are being made to the capacity of Government institutions, through the strengthening of the Ministry of Water Resources itself and the provision of support to District Councils for the implementation of WASH activities. Attention must also be drawn to steps being taken to improve monitoring and evaluation (M&E) data collection systems, analysis and feedback, among others, in order to better measure the impacts and outcomes of WASH sector policies and interventions.

 

SUCCESSES

The performance of the Guma Valley Water Company (GVWC), which supplies water to Freetown, has improved dramatically over the past few months. Revenues are up by 125%; billings have increased by nearly 40%; hundreds of previously unregistered connections have now been captured into the billing system; and there has been a reduction in non-revenue water from 61% to 41%. A considerable number of leaks have been repaired, thus making more water available in the system. Financing has been made available for the extension of the water supply mains by 4.8Km, making the service available to more areas, especially in less privileged communities. There has also been a significant improvement in staff commitment and morale and this has had a remarkable impact on service delivery; bills are now delivered on time and efforts have been made to improve the response time to customer complaints. The spate of corruption in terms of revenue collection is very much on the decline. It is no wonder that the GVWC recently won a prestigious international award in Spain for remarkable performance by a public utility.

 

The Sierra Leone Water Company (SALWACO) is also undergoing a major transformation, the main thrust of which is to put Local Councils and communities in the driving seat in the delivery of water, sanitation and hygiene services. This is the latest step as part of the sectors institutional reform in order to improve WASH service delivery to citizens. SALWACO is being transformed to provide technical support to Local Councils, so as to enhance the supply of water to rural and small towns, in addition to its current mandate of producing and distributing potable water to selected urban centres. Meanwhile, the first draft of the new SALWACO Bill which seeks to amend the existing Act has already been prepared gone through a nationwide consultative process, and ready for submission to Cabinet and Parliament for enactment into law.

 

Suffice it to say, that in light of the above-mentioned developments, there is definitely a strong glimmer of hope in the water sector, especially so, if the ongoing interventions begin to exhibit their fullest potential for the benefit of all stakeholders. 


© Copyright by Awareness Times Newspaper in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

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