Sierra Leone (MNN) — Bursting out randomly like popcorn, cholera cases continue to break out across Sierra Leone. Once the disease is controlled in one area, it flares up somewhere else.
Around 4,000 cases of cholera have been reported since the start of the epidemic. But Paul Darilek with Living Water International says that number is probably much higher since only around 15% of health care units are reporting their cases.
Cholera, a water-born bacterial disease, attacks the body draining it of fluids. It often leads to dehydration and, in some cases, is fatal.
According to Darilek, the disease continues to spread in Sierra Leone because “it's largely a sanitation-related issue…. People that just have no access to improve sanitation facilities, even something just as simple as a latrine.”
Darilek shares his experience in a shanty village called Crabtown outside of Sierra Leone’s capital. “There were latrines, but the latrine just empties onto the ground right behind the latrine. They were basically for privacy, but not for sanitation.”
For immediate response, Living Water staff is part of a cholera task force with other organizations getting cholera victims to clinics for treatment.
Often, Living Water is best known for its clean water providing programs, and the world has made immense progress in that area. Over 2 billion people have gained access to clean drinking water in the past 20 years.
However, when it comes to sanitation improvement and education, there is still much lacking. According to UNICEF, 32% of Sierra Leone’s population currently has unimproved sanitation facilities.
When Living Water goes into a community, they often implement sanitation and hygiene education. Darilek says, “We’ve found that the most effective is to come alongside communities, have them come up with their own solutions, and just encourage and education along the way. And involve the local church and school.”
Living Water helps communities build pit latrines, understand how bacteria spreads, and teach hand-washing with soap at critical times.
And in everything, the Gospel message is the foundation of Living Water’s ministry. “When Living Water intervenes, it’s clear that Jesus is why we do what we do. It’s clear that our work together is about water, but it’s also about living water. It’s about life, but it’s also about eternal life.”
Darilek says, “We would cherish people’s prayer for our local Sierra Leonean staff coming along people’s side and coming along God’s side for his glory to help people prevent future cholera outbreaks.”