…awful toilet facilities
June 22, 2015 By Mohamed Massaquoi
Wilberforce Military Barracks, one of the oldest and biggest military barracks in Sierra Leone, is faced with serious sanitation challenges that require the urgent intervention of the authorities concerned to salvage a desperate health situation in the overcrowded barracks.
Access to improved sanitation facilities for the population of Sierra Leone is still a major concern in most communities as pit latrines, ventilated improved pit (VIP) latrines, and pit latrines with slab facilities are not readily available.
According to a 2012 World Bank report, only 13% of the country’s population has access to improved sanitation facilities.
Only recently, a report by the Institute of Governance Reform (IGR) into service delivery for Sierra Leone index 2015 clearly put 47% of households across the country as not having access to proper sanitation and safe refuse disposal. The report noted that Wilberforce Military Barracks is grossly under sanitized.
Director of Information and Communications in the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF), Col. Mohamed M. Samura, agreed that the barracks is over congested and it is possible that there must be some sanitation challenges. However, he noted that the Commanding Officer at the barracks embarks on frequent cleaning exercises every month to address the situation.
According to Col. Samura, the only solution to the problem is to fence the vicinity as on several occasions, they have conducted house-to-house searches within the barracks in order to dislodge illegal residents. Such attempts, he said, have proved unsuccessful as the population within the barracks continues to swell on a daily basis.
“This is very surprising to me because we embark on a cleaning exercise every month. I have lived within Wilberforce Barracks for over eight years, and sanitation is one of our major concerns. So the military takes this seriously,” said the military spokesman. “We cannot succeed in real sanitation until the barracks is completely fenced. It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Defence to embark on such a project but at the moment the ministry is focused on other areas.”
He maintained that the barracks has good toilet facility but because of over congestion, people misuse it.
It could be recalled that the RSLAF some years back embarked on a housing project for the military. The aim of the project was to provide accommodation for serving personnel and their immediate family members. However, the scheme was not successfully implemented.
Most of the barracks, especially in Freetown, are over congested with military personnel as well as civilians who have nothing to do with the military.
“From Kailahun, Kambia to Moyamba and Pujehun, military personnel are living in horrible houses with poor sanitation facilities,” lamented a service military personnel resident at the Wilberforce Barracks. “We are suffering…there is no better sanitation facility in this barracks, all of us in this block are using a single toilet. People from other blocks also come to use this facility. I am sure our commanders are aware of this awful situation but they are yet to proffer solution. It is no hidden secret that sanitation is the biggest challenge for us in this barracks.”