Launched December 18, 2012
As I write, Sierra Leone is suffering through one of its worst outbreaks of cholera. A waterborne disease that infects the intestine and is transmitted through contaminated water and food, cholera has ravaged 12 of the country’s 13 districts. The World Health Organization has reported 18,919 cases with 273 deaths since the beginning of 2012. International aid organizations have pressed for continued efforts to stabilize the spread while Sierra Leone’s government has declared a national emergency.
Beneath the cloud of cholera are a myriad of challenges facing Sierra Leone. A civil war from 1991 to 2002 left the country’s water infrastructure in shambles. In 2010, Sierra Leone ranked as one of the poorest countries in the world: 158 out of 179 on the UN Human Development Index.
The worst hit areas of Freetown, the capital, are the slum settlements where the uncontrolled increase in shanty houses, open refuse pits, and ineffective waste management systems are a lethal combination. The end-of-year rainy season amplifies the problem, flooding these settlements and making the possibility for the resurgence of cholera more likely.
“Water Is Gold” is a long-term photographic project on the global issue of water and how we use and misuse our most precious resource. It helps to explain the crisis in Sierra Leone by documenting the consequences of unsafe water usage and its effect on people’s lives.