Many residents of Kroo Bay community in central of Freetown currently use the sea or land to defecate as alternative because of lack of enough public toilet facility in the slum.
Kroo Bay is located on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean and its inhabitants are mostly poor and vulnerable people who migrated to Freetown during the civil war and cannot afford to pay for expensive housing.
At the moment, only few public toilets serve the densely populated slum area, with most people having to pay the sum of Le500 to access the facility. This amount, according to some residents, is not always affordable, especially for heads of large households.
Hassan Kanu, a fisherman who spoke to this reporter at the Kroo Bay wharf, said their section of the slum area is not considered as Kroo Bay but Kingtom.
“That is why most of the benefits that have been coming to Kroo Bay are not reaching us. The other part of the community has two public toilets,” he disclosed.
Because they cannot always afford Le500 to access the public toilet, he said, they opt instead to defecate near the bank of the sea.
Asked about hazards their act may pose to the environment and by extension the population, he did not shy away from accepting, and added that they have been grappling with diseases like cholera, malaria, diarrhea, among others.
He recalled that Kroo Bay community was seriously hit by the cholera outbreak in 2013 because of the poor sanitation.
Meanwhile, he called on the government and non-governmental organisations to provide at least three more public toilets for them before the start of the rainy season.
Kadiatu Bangura, a resident of the community, also confirmed that most of the people use the river bank to defecate because of lack of public toilets.
She said the women are the most affected as they are very ashamed to use the open to answer to the call of nature, while the men are bold enough to do their stuff.
“It doesn’t make sense to see women, children and men using the river bank at the same time to defecate. Life in this community is very horrible, but we don’t have choice but to live here, thinking about the high rent demand in non-slum areas,” she said.
She said they have been crying for help in this regard, but their efforts have so far proved futile, thus calling on the government to intervene before things get out of hands.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sanitation and hygiene are critical to health, survival, and development.
It further states that a significant amount of diseases could be prevented through better access to adequate sanitation facilities and better hygiene practices. Improved sanitation facilities – for example, toilets and latrines- allow people to dispose of their waste appropriately, which help break the infection cycle of many diseases.
Providing access to safe water and sanitation facilities and promoting proper hygiene behaviour are important in reducing the burden of disease from sanitation and hygiene-related diseases, says the CDC.
According to the World Bank, 2.5 billion people without access to toilets face poor health outcomes and constrained economic prospects in their communities. It furthered that increasing access to toilets can save millions of lives and US$260 billion in economic losses
“One out of every three people in the world today has no toilet. Of the 2.5 billion people without proper toilets or sewage systems, nearly one billion people regularly defecate in rivers or fields, spreading germs that cause diarrheal disease,” the World Bank Group notes.
The World Bank Group report also disclosed that diarrheal disease kills thousands of children each day – it is the second leading cause of death in children under five. Children who survive this preventable disease often miss school due to illness or suffer from malnutrition and stunting, detrimental to their long-term health.
Thus, for thousands of Kroo Bay residents, adults and children alike are susceptible to preventable diseases and natural disasters like flood, almost seasonally.