Fighting COVID-19 in rural Sierra Leone

8 October, 2021 | Oscar Lozada
Categories: CO2balance, COVID-19, CSR Projects, Safe Water, Sierra Leone

A borehole in CO2balance’s Sierra Leone Safe Water Project, with a newly-provided pedal-operated handwashing station, to be used before touching the hand pump and surfaces.

After over a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are all familiar with the need to clean our hands with soapy water after touching communal surfaces – be it door handles, handrails or the like. 

But what if you live somewhere without running water, like rural Sierra Leone?

With limited access to healthcare, the potential consequences of an outspread of COVID-19 amongst rural Sierra Leonean communities could be disastrous.

In such communities, one of the most frequently used communal surfaces are the handles for hand pumps (aka boreholes), used daily by up to 300 people to collect water for their crops, cooking, washing and drinking. Naturally, there is huge potential for transmission here.

CO2balance is committed to improving good hygiene practices within the communities we work with, using two types of approaches; long-term and direct.

A long-term approach we employ across our safe water projects are regular training sessions to raise awareness of WASH practices. With our partners and in-country teams, training and demonstrations are carried out to emphasise the importance of good hygiene practices such as washing hands and cooking equipment with soap or collecting water in clean and secure containers in order to prevent infections, improve health, and save lives.

A more direct approach is providing communities with hand-washing stations. For instance, in rural Sierra Leone, as part of our CSR programme, we have provided hand-washing stations, and soap, to all 132 communities under our project, free of charge.

These stations are pedal-operated, allowing the user to use their foot to dispense water from the barrel, rather than touching a tap or nozzle with their hands.

These stations have been set up adjacent to the boreholes (usually in the centre of communities) and training provided to teach community members firstly HOW to use the stations, but most importantly WHY it is important to use them (as part of our WASH training programme).

Over the past year since their distribution, we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. We are informed that covid-19 spread in the districts in which we work (Kono, Kenema and Kailahun in the Eastern province) remains low, and we hope that our WASH programmes have contributed to this success.

CO2balance intends to continue this WASH programme for as long as it is necessary, hopefully continuing to halt the spread of the virus in rural Sierra Leone.