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Guédiawaye in all its … unhygienic states!

Posted 01.12.2014 by Team - View comments

As the reality is often more shocking than anyone would want to admit, in this article, we have decided to, simply, state the facts ...

On Friday, October 17, 2014, Sandrine (Ecofund) and Prof.A.Tidjani (VIE - Vie Information Environnement), on Doxandem Squad’s invitation, a graffiti association, hosted a meeting, on floods, with Guédiawaye residents during the association’s 2014 “Festigraff” awareness campaign on health.

It’s in front of a crowd of residents from Guediaway, that we revealed the Prophecy No.7 photograph, and its explanatory caption on the causes and the negative impacts of floods. There were many women and children in the audiance, all curious and interested - in obvious empathy with the flood victim and the Djinn in the photograph.

Indeed, in this inner city neighbourhood, formerly called “Khaley Cite” or more recently “Dioukhope Cité,” we discovered the appalling daily life of its inhabitants: the school with over 800 pupils (7-13 years old) is often flooded, with the first floods occurring in 2005 in this fast growing and poorly planned neighbourhood, located in a drainage basin. Difficulties experienced during the rainy season include the inaccessibility and closure of the school for 2 to 3 months, and so causing a disruption in learning, with lands filled with muddy, stagnant water and mosquitoes, causing bad smells in the entire neighbourhood.

After presenting the Ecofund’s Prophecy project aiming to create awareness on the risks of and solutions to environmental problems, Prof. Tidjani explained clearly, in local language, to the population of Guediawaye why floods occur and how they impact the environment and affect human health. The ensuing contributions were intense with several women sadly and angrily citing various hygiene problems in their area. In Guediawaye, the plague of flooding has been very complex and highly aggravated by people’s actions. There has been no water in the school's toilets since the non-payment of the first water bill of about 1.000 euros (or 650.000 FCFA).

Moreover, the water pumping station has been out of service since it was built, leading to an increase in waterborne diseases and malaria ... A visit with Prof. Tidjani led us to an abandoned (for years) water pumping station, a supposedly back-up solution during flooding. A construction concept criticized by users, wrong handling that led to a broken pipe, and flooded electrical outlets contributed in rendering the station finally inoperative and since then, neither the local authorities nor the residents of Guediawaye have been able to solve these problems.

In the end, the situation seemed completely catastrophic, even depressing. Rain water, from neighbourhood districts Sam-Notaire, Ndiarème Limamoulaye, and Médina Gounass localities, which is collected in the pumping station turns to wastewater filled with excrements and garbage dumped by residents, thus filling the area with nauseating smells and breeding mosquitoes ...

Not needed to mention, that the health risks have, therefore, been rising for the past 8 years due to people’s inaction and inability to repair the already existing water pumping station and so to contain floods. This has, consequently, led to an increase in damages caused by floods on 503 houses, mosques, and schools etc. In the current context of increased vigilance regarding the Ebola threat, how can these people respect the recommended hygiene rules without water and in such a highly unhygienic environment?

We asked the audience, if it would be possible for each resident to contribute to the urgent repair work and maintenance of the water pump and to the payment of the school's water bills ... Apparently, these questions led to other questions on management quality and trust in those, who were designated to manage the collected funds. A real puzzle ....

To us, this meeting was a very touching field visit given the hopelessness of the situation. Guédiawaye seemed so far away from the relative comfort of the nearby capital city of Dakar, forgotten by all and the Government since 2006 and unable to have its problems solved through citizens’ action, i.e. by the victims themselves ... We are already at the threshold of 2015! We were almost overwhelmed by anger about the lethargy ...

But wait a moment … on the second thoughts, we realized that only few people, alike Mr. Amadou Sow, the dynamic community leader, were aware of the sanitary and environmental risks they are facing. Therefore, creating awareness, in particular among the youth, remains an imperative: As the association “Doxandem Squad” team finished cleaning up of the school’s walls, where they were supposed to paint their graffiti on health issues, the pupils were already throwing garbage everywhere, in front of their school's entrance and on a vacant scorched land, where the trees and other plants, so useful in flood control, have been removed from this urban landscape ...

We fervently hope the residents will use the expertise offered by Master’s degree trainees working on the environment as suggested by Prof. Tidjani, who said that "it is only by explaining the situation with detailed scientific presentation that the residents can plead their case and work on appropriate solutions with the Senegalese authorities and other citizens." A good idea that offers some hope!

We plan to revisit Guédiawaye to find out if the situation has evolved positively after our visit. In the meantime, our wishes of encouragement and continuing action go to Dioukhope Cité residents, whom we thank, once again, for their warm welcome. We will be very happy if the publication of these problems contributes in garnering support to their cause.