Salone News

Public health and sanitation issues in Sierra Leone

23 August 2019 at 17:24 | 1775 views


By Ibrahim P. Sheriff, Freetown, Sierra Leone

It is true that the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown, and most other cities in the country are, to a large extent, profoundly overwhelmed by very bad environmental issues.

This unfortunate public health issue cannot be unconnected with the shameless public display of indecency by most Sierra Leonean males who publicly urinate anywhere throughout the country.

While other human activities contribute immensely to the filthiness of the environment in Sierra Leone, public urination by especially males (not common among females for obvious reasons) is at the top of that contribution. Of course, when a country grapples with poverty, squalor and hardship for many years, human activities degenerate as well. Public health is a major issue that needs tackling just as it is wished by the President as part of his human capital development agenda. Indeed, urine is a human waste which has very adverse effects on the environment and those who live in it. If the health of the general public is to be pure, they must have an understanding of factors that contaminate and pollute such environments.

It is quite noticeable everywhere in Sierra Leone that the male citizens of the country are quite naive about the consequences of their public display of indecency and contribution to the pollution and public health hazards in the country. At least I have not witnessed a lot of female Sierra Leoneans engaging in this public display of indecency (though there are very few cases). When a Salone man gets the urge to urinate, it is not a matter of where he must urinate, or who may be seeing him urinating, or how his public urination impacts others especially children who most times get to see these actions unnoticed or unexpectedly. The social impact of this indecent act, as I see it, is a rape of the minds of Sierra Leonean children especially girls to unexpectedly see adult males standing in very open spaces and "peeing" like it’s normal. What could that child be thinking after an unexpected experience like that? How will that experience impact the mind of that girl child as she grows into a woman? These are the questions that linger on my mind as I see these male adults shamelessly displaying this disgusting public indecency. So when we talk about combating issues of rape in Sierra Leone, we must start by educating the public, and especially male Sierra Leoneans about the negative consequences of their public indecency on our girl children. It must also be part of our Public Order Act that must be enforced by law enforcement officers. We must institute and nurture some public sanity laws especially when it comes to these unfortunate social and public health issue.

When you are in some parts of Freetown, it is easy to notice bad odors that are purely smells of urine everywhere. The inevitable inhaling of the odor from someone’s urine has grave health and environmental consequences. So I think the public needs education on what urine does to one’s health and to the environment. People must understand that the odor produced by urine is obnoxious and contributes largely to the pollution of the environment. If the person peeing in public has an infectious disease or urinary track infection, that person potentially transmits that disease to other people very easily. As flies and cockroaches are carriers of bacteria, when they come in contact with urine, especially urine from an infected person, they can carry those infections and contaminate food quite easily. Urine odor is the most easy way to notice filthiness and poor environmental hygiene. As such, it drives tourists away from places where it is noticed to be prevalent. Urine odor kills businesses as people may decide not to do business around areas that are contaminated with such odors. And above all, urine leaves awful stains on walls and concrete.

It is quite understandable that when one has to urinate, sometimes it is unbearable or not easy to hold any longer. However, urine does not just press an individual to let it out, it alerts a person. Second, it is against an individual’s own health to hold your pee to the point where you are pressed beyond the unbearable. Holding your pee to that unbearable point puts stress on one’s bladder and kidney which may have adverse health consequences.

According to Dr. Elaine Lou of Healthline, in certain circumstances holding urine for any length of time can be dangerous. If you have any of the following conditions, holding your urine can increase your risk of infection or kidney disease: enlarged prostate, neurogenic bladder, kidney disorders, urinary retention, and that a woman who is pregnant is already at an increased risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs). If you’re pregnant, holding your pee can further increase this risk. So, while contaminating the environment and contributing to poor environmental hygiene and disease, those who hold their pee do contribute to their own health complications.

Oh yeah, many who are reading this article may quickly try to cast blame on government for the behavior of people who make other people sick, who drive away tourists, who kill businesses, who contribute to poor public and environmental health, and who rape the minds of our children. Of course, most countries with good public health and environmental hygiene have instituted policies that combat the problem of public urination. Those countries have the financial means, the appropriate public order laws, public health education, environmental sanitation laws, acceptance of their citizens that public urination is bad public health and environmental sanitation issues with negative social consequences as well.

So, while it is the role of government to play a part in curbing this disturbing problem, the general public is largely to understand how negatively the problem is affecting Sierra Leone as a country, and the health of it’s citizens. While government may be working on ways to combat the national problem, citizens, especially Sierra Leonean men must refrain from this unsanitary action and public display of indecency. I challenge media houses especially to play a part in uncovering what seems to be a national health, sanitation and social issue by providing information and education that inform the masses.