In a recent meeting to update His Excellency, President Ernest Bai Koroma on Operation Clean Freetown (OCF), Sulaiman Zainu Parker, Environment and Social Officer at Freetown City Council, said that everyone pays a heavy price for the widespread illegal dumping of household waste.
“Too many people refuse to pay for door-to-door household waste collection. Everyone has the right to live in an environment safe from the anti-social behaviour of others. Instead, the individuals who try to avoid paying for the disposal of their waste are simply transferring the costs to their neighbours and the nation as a whole. We are paying higher medical bills because our family and friends contract malaria, typhoid or other illnesses as a result of the waste produced by others. A polluted environment constrains the growth of sectors such as tourism and when the government has to pay clean up costs, there is less money for investment in progressive development,” he explained.
A sample of household data collected by the Operation Clean Freetown (OCF) door-to-door waste collection enterprises reveals that less than half of Freetown’s households are disposing of their waste properly, with 10% using Masada’s door-to-door rubbish collection, 18% using existing door to door waste collectors, and 21% saying they take their waste to the local transit point. Over half of households surveyed resort to improper waste disposal methods. These include 16% dumping waste in waterways or the sea, 21% burning their waste and 15% who say they use ‘other’ methods of disposal. This widespread dumping of waste is damaging the environment and contaminating the city’s water, leading to a rise in diseases such as malaria, typhoid and diarrhoea, and increasing the risk of epidemics such as cholera.
Operation Clean Freetown is an initiative under the President’s Recovery Priorities, aimed at improving public health in the city through better management of household waste, which includes a new household waste collection strategy.
It is funded by UK AID and the Government of Sierra Leone and led by Freetown City Council and Western Area Rural District Council (WARD C), in collaboration with the President’s Delivery Team, the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and the Freetown WASH consortium.
Under OCF there will be improved waste management infrastructure, an intensive city-wide cleaning, an awareness raising campaign, compulsory door-to-door waste collection for households, and crucially, better enforcement of the by-laws governing waste disposal and littering.
Sulaiman Zainu Parker sums up the process saying: “Operation Clean Freetown is intended to support better management of household waste through a new household waste collection strategy under which door to door waste collection will become a requirement for all households. This will limit the improper disposal of household waste in the sea, waterways and gutters; and improve public health and our environment.”