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Tiangay’s story
Nyeama, Sierra Leone

Tiangay Sesay knows how life depends on safe water and sanitation. She lives in Nyeama, Sierra Leone, a small village of 200 people accessed along narrow paths criss-crossing streams.

The brutal civil war forced her to flee, and when she returned to the village the river water was the only source. One day, her baby daughter suddenly fell sick with terrible diarrhoea and died three days later.

“She was one year and two months old,” Tiangay told us. “She was called Hawa. It was not easy to console me. Having run away for years and coming home with a healthy child as I saw her, I thought she would be my treasure in my old age.”

Tiangay Sesay collects dirty water with one of her grandchildren from the old water source, the Wanjai River, in the village of Nyeama, Sierra Leone,
Tiangay Sesay collects dirty water with one of her grandchildren from the old water source, the Wanjai River, in the village of Nyeama, Sierra Leone.
Photographer credit: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Despite or perhaps because of this terrible tragedy, Tiangay now plays a central role in the development of her village. She was nominated to be the women’s leader. “I am not biased, nor easily offended,” she explains. “Those are the qualities they chose me for.”

In 2012 WaterAid’s partners helped the community to build a water pump and toilets here. Tiangay explains, “We provided the local materials, we made it, fetched water, the women fed the workers but the men did the physical jobs, digging of holes.”

The community then came up with an innovative way to pay for maintenance. Rather than contributing fees, the community collectively farms cassava. This is traded for palm oil which is then sold later in the year when the price is high.

The water and sanitation facilities, combined with knowledge of good hygiene, have worked wonders.

“It’s almost a year without complaining of diarrhoea. We have enough good drinking water at home both night and day; we cook with good clean water.”

“Now we go to bed safe and sound, we pass the nights happily. Life has changed completely in terms of sanitation. That is why we have made a law that every two Fridays we clean the village. One person will not put this community to shame.”

Children celebrate as they sit behind the water pump in the village of Nyeama, Sierra Leone,
Children celebrate as they sit behind the water pump in the village of Nyeama, Sierra Leone.
Photographer credit: WaterAid/ Anna Kari

Find out more about the water crisis in Sierra Leone, and discover what WaterAid is doing to end this >