Sierra Leone

The Water Crisis in Sierra Leone

During the civil war between 1991 and 2002, Sierra Leone's infrastructure was seriously damaged. As a result, many water points and toilet facilities remain out of use even today. Millions of people lack access to water and toilets, and two thirds of the population live in poverty.

Sierra Leoneans collect most of their drinking-water from polluted sources. These pollutants and poor sanitation are the cause of many health problems in the country. Almost half of the population is not using protected water sources for drinking. Most of the unsafe drinking sources are freestanding water, such as ponds and unprotected wells. Infections and parasites, most found in contaminated water, lead to the largest cause of death in Sierra Leone. Poor sanitation generates high risk of hepatitis A and Typhoid . Still water breeds malaria-carrying mosquitoes that plague the country with one of the most common deadly infections contracted in the area.

Half the population does not have access to safe water, and almost nine in every ten people have nowhere to go to the toilet. This has a big impact on health, contributing to child deaths and a low life expectancy. The problem is also holding back the country's development, preventing adults from working and children from getting an education. Women in particular have to walk long distances to collect water from unsafe sources.

More Water Facts

  • 2.6 million people in Sierra Leone don't have access to safe water.
  • Over 5 million people don't have access to adequate sanitation in Sierra Leone, over four-fifths of the population.
  • Over 4,000 children die every year from diarrhea caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation in Sierra Leone.

The Water4 Solution in Sierra Leone

Water4's partner Wilamette International has been engaged in drilling boreholes in Sierra Leone for the past four years. They started with one team comprised of local drillers and were able to complete five wells the first year. Since then they have started one locally owned and operated manual drilling business, and also operate two local drilling teams Wilamette International. Together, these teams have drilled a total of 130 boreholes, providing clean drinking water to about 34,000 people.

usmanUsman Bangura 

Usman is Wilamette's most experienced manager. He is trained as an electrician and appliance repairman. While working with him as a community volunteer on the third well they drilled, they were impressed by his work ethic and his sharp mind. He joined the drilling crew and soon became their manager. The rest of his team is Alpha, Obai, Joseph and Ibrahim.



James and Christo

James, or “Papa” as everyone calls him, has been with Wilamette since the first well. Papa is a Liberian who immigrated to Sierra Leone during the conflict in Liberia. Manual drilling is very difficult and physically exhausting work, and Papa, despite being 67, is one of the hardest workers they have. The rest of the team always wants three or four days off between wells, but James always wants just one. James is not able to read and write proficiently, so this team is co-managed by Christo. Christo handles the well log and team finances, and Papa handles the rest. The other three members of the team are Michael, Usman and Jeff.


Joseph is the sole owner and operator of his own business. Through Water4, Wilamette gave him a loan to buy his own tools and build a storage/office space at his house. Since then he has repaid 90% of the loan through profits from drilling, and has also purchased a vehicle to move his drilling team to work sites. His business comes mostly from private contracts he acquires himself, as well as partnering with other NGOs that award drilling contracts. He has done well for himself running this business, and we are excited to see how he does in the future.

Next Steps

The success we have had utilizing manual drilling in Sierra Leone has been an encouragement. We are excited about expanding our operation by both adding teams, as well as further equipping the teams that we have now. 

The next step for our organization is to change our current employment structure into a franchise model. This will allow our drilling teams to become more independent and make more money while allowing us to expand to more teams. Our goal is to double the number of teams to six by mid 2016.

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