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From Swamp Water to Safe Water in Sierra Leone: Rugiatu’s Story

Home > Learn More > Stories & News > From Swamp Water to Safe Water in Sierra Leone: Rugiatu’s Story

Posted on 8/17/2020

Reporting by Sahr Ngaujah, ChildFund Sierra Leone

Inaccessibility of clean and safe water sources is just one of many problems that rural communities in Sierra Leone face. Twelve-year-old Rugiatu, her family and her entire community used to get water from a contaminated swamp. The community had an old well, but it was dilapidated and no longer in use.

‘’We had no choice,” Rugiatu says. “There was no other means of getting clean water in my village.”

The Struggle to Find Clean Water

And in the dry season when the swamp dried up, they had to walk long distances to other areas to find water.

“I remember walking one day with a bucket of water on my head, and I almost got hit by a motorbike,” Rugiatu says. “On another occasion, both my feet ran into thorns. Carrying a heavy water container on my head was very painful. Sometimes, my head ached, and I felt pain down to my neck. Worst of all, my brother, John, was bitten by a snake one day when he followed us to the swamp to fetch water. We could have lost him, but thank God, he did not die.’’

In addition to the pains caused by walking long distances in search of water, the task often made Rugiatu miss sleep and be late for school.

“My mom would wake me up very early in the morning to accompany her fetch water from the swamp,” she says. “I would first take my bath from the swamp before getting water in the bucket to take home. … By the time I got dressed, I was already late for school. This happened so many times.”

Girl washes hands at water well outside smiling in Sierra Leone.

Rugiatu, 12, washes her hands at the newly renovated water
well in her community.

A New Well Means a Better Life

Through ChildFund’s Real Gifts Catalog, the broken well in Rugiatu’s community was renovated, so now she and her entire community have access to clean, safe water.

‘’The water well is the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Rugiatu says. “If it were not for this water well, I would still be struggling to fetch water from that swamp. Life is so much easier for us now that we have clean water in our village.’’

Water is Essential to Survival

Especially during COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends frequent handwashing under running water for at least 20 seconds. But what happens when communities have no access to clean and safe water?

Rugiatu brings the point home: “ChildFund gave us buckets to wash our hands. People came to talk to us about washing our hands during coronavirus, and they advised us to be using clean water to wash our hands. But if it were not for this water well, how would we be washing our hands during this coronavirus?’’

At ChildFund, we’re committed to helping kids, their families and communities stay safe and healthy – during this pandemic, and always. You can help by giving the gift of water today.

Girl stands outside at water pump well with blue bucket in Sierra Leone.

“If it were not for this water well, how would we be
washing our hands during this coronavirus?’’ Rugiatu, 12.