Water and Sanitation Services supporting delivery of quality health care

Working with partners to improve sanitation in Sierra Leone

Tapuwa Mutseyekwa
A nurse stands outside a shower facility at a health center in Sierra Leone.
UNICEF Sierra Leone/2020/Mutseyekwa
06 August 2020

Waterloo, Sierra Leone - It is 9am and already Manjina Taylor, Chief Health Officer at the Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Health Clinic in Waterloo Sierra Leone has seen 10 patients coming through to the observation rooms, seeking treatment for various ailments.   In the courtyard of the clinic premise, a group of 12 parents is assembled by the neatly built gazebo. Each parent has a baby seated on their laps, eagerly awaiting their turn to receive the life serving vaccines.

Manjina is unfazed by the influx of patients to the clinic and has found satisfaction in attending to the various health needs of patients from Newton community in Waterloo, who have been visiting this clinic since it was established in 2015.

“I love my job because I am able to save lives, give hope to those who are sick and to make a positive difference to the community I serve,” says Manjina as she explains her deep passion for helping her patients. 

“For me to provide the best care to patients, I must always do the right thing. This includes making sure that each new patient that I meet is observed and examined by a clean pair of hands,” says Manjina, as she scrubs her hands thoroughly with soap and the clean water that is streaming from the handwashing basin tap.

A nurse washes her hand in a health centre in Western Sierra Leone
UNICEF Sierra Leone/2020/Mutseyekwa
Manjina Taylor interacts with many patients daily. Keeping her hands clean is key component of saving the lives of her patients.

Three years ago, this simple and all-important process of handwashing was not so easy for Manjina. Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Health Clinic had no running water on site and water had to be collected from the community water points. 

“Washing hands before interacting and observing a new patient is an important strategy which every nurse must adhere to so that the risks of transmitting organisms from one person to another is less. Because of that, we always need to have a regular supply of clean water at the clinic,” says Manjina as she recalls that fetching water with plastic jerry cans was the first assignment that all the nurses and the auxiliary staff had to do before patients could be attended to.

“We had to leave our regular curative roles and go out to fetch water from the community water point using 20 litre jerry cans. We had to carry these heavy containers back to the clinic to ensure that there is some water to carry out services such as handwashing, cleaning and also doing the clinic laundry,” says Manjina as she explains this laborious undertaking, which left them exhausted them and kept them from attending to patients on time.

A nurse talks to a mother about her baby, during a visit to the Waterloo Health Center in western Sierra Leone.
UNICEF Sierra Leone/2020/Mutseyekwa
A nurse talks to a mother about her baby, during a visit to the Waterloo Health Center in western Sierra Leone.

According to UNICEF/WHO Joint Monitoring Programme (2017 Update) half of the rural population, still struggles to get easy access to improved water sources.  Health facilities are not spared from this daily struggle to find water, the downturn being that nurses are unable to meet the health demands of patients in a timely, safe and sterile manner.

Manjina is happy that these difficult days are a thing of the past. Since 2016, UNICEF has worked with a local Civil Society Organisation partner, Living Water International (LWI), to implement the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion in Schools and Communities in Rural Sierra Leone programme, which has been funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office became the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). 

The programme was designed to help close the huge sanitation gap in rural areas and help to improve WASH facilities at both household and at critical facilities such as schools and clinics.

At Monsignor Daniel Sullivan Health Clinic, a solar power generated pump has been securely fitted on the premises and pumps underground water into a 5 000 litre mounted storage tank. From the tank, the water feeds into water pipes which lead to various strategic points in the clinic including handwashing basins, the laundry room and the bathrooms.

In addition of the water system upgrade, the laundry room, bathrooms and toilets have also been refurbished for use by both the clinic staff and patients. A two-bed maternity wing has also been constructed to allow safe delivery of babies and to give mothers the chances to rest after delivery.  Before the construction of the maternity wing and the bathrooms, mothers were being discharged within hours of delivery, but now, they can rest for 24 hours before they are discharged.

A nurse examines a pregnant woman at the Waterloo Health Centre.
UNICEF Sierra Leone/2020/Mutseyekwa
A nurse examines a pregnant woman at the Waterloo Health Centre. With WASH Facilities on site, mothers are now able to deliver and rest for 24hours before they are discharged

“Good hygiene is a basic human right and it is one of most cost-effective ways of saving the lives of babies and their families,” says UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suleiman Braimoh. “Reliable access to clean water helps to support progress towards reaching all the other development goals including reducing poverty, maintaining good health, keeping children in school, as well as achieving gender equality.”

With an easier access to clean water, Manjina and her team can continue to provide professional care to save the lives of patients and to continue opening their doors to those who need their services.