By Ibrahim Jaffa Condeh and Kevin Hill
As the rainy season approaches, fears of a cholera outbreak have spurred the chief of Rokupre-Portee Warf to ask for help from government for his community.
Highly congested and overpopulated, the Wharf is situated in the eastern part of Freetown on the sea. The shamble houses of fishermen and wood sellers fill a densely packed cove with no road access.
The chief estimates that there are approximately of 5000 people living in the small community. Geographic location and poor sanitation place the community at risk. It is a settlement literally on the edge.
“It is only out of God that we can survive this life. We consume contaminated water from the well. Only a few financially can afford to buy Grafton water that is pure”, said Chief Pa Alimamy Serry Thoklah.
Sanitation problems have led to a situation where cholera outbreaks have become an annual event.
According to Chief Thoklah, flooding causes contamination of the well water and cholera outbreaks occur, “heavy, heavy”, and the death rate goes up.
The community is particularly susceptible to flooding. The main drainage ditches are small and choked with garbage, dumped by residents who lack garbage collection.
There are no toilet facilities at Rokupre-Portee Warf. People are forced to either go to the water’s edge or defecate in a plastic container in their houses and then throw the waste into the sea.
There is also no pipe-borne water. The community depends on well water that the local chief calls “contaminated”.
Flooding occurs with any significant rainfall. The water enters homes, destroying possessions and creating the potential for the spread of disease.
This village by the sea exists on partially reclaimed land that is especially susceptible to flooding. “A long time ago, this dry dock area was the sea. It was built up with sand from Lungi so we can live here”, said Chief Thoklah.
The community has no health clinic. The nearest one is about 3-4 miles away. Those who get sick have to make the trek up the steep pathway and out of the community for treatment.
The community has received many promises from government and NGOs in past years but no action has been taken to bring basic services to the area.
People stay in the community trying to make the best of the situation, but because of high levels of poverty they cannot leave.
The people of Rokupre-Portee Warf survive by fishing and collecting firewood in places as far away as Port Loko to sell in Freetown.
Member of Parliament for Constituency 99, Hon. Alimamy G. Kargbo acknowledges the difficulties the community faces, but admits he is not aware of the severity of the sanitation problem.
“The area is very deplorable, it is not very convenient to access”, he said, adding, “I am not aware of any flooding in the area”.
He did, however, claim that he is attempting to address the issues and is seeking assistance from all appropriate ministries and NGOs.