Tilorma residents exposed to river blindness as black flies invade village
By Osman Hardy Jalloh
KENEMA (TV-News24) — Black flies of various sizes have invaded a village in east Sierra Leone exposing the people to serious illnesses thus, prompting residents Friday to call on the local city council and Sierra Leone government to intervene in addressing the health threat they are facing.
Tilorma village is in Nongowa Chiefdom, six miles from Kenema city center, and is situated between the Kenema- Liberia highway.
Musu Bawoh, a resident, says the astronomical number of flies in the village is alarming and very disturbing.
She described the flies as black in color and of various sizes coming from the dump site.
“They flies are so plenty; some of them are big whilst others are small and are black in colour,” Bawoh says.
Alex Vandi, another resident, says, they have been subjected to in-house cooking and eating for fear of the black flies.
“We can’t afford to cook or eat in an open place, because the flies will sit or enter into the food except, we have a fanner to drive them off. The numerous flies coming from the dump site have overtaken the village,” Vandi says.
Tilorma Village Chief Sinaray Boima Swarray Fogbawa says the city council had approached them for the dump site — when it was just a piece of fertile land with no flies.
And the initial arrangement was, according to Fogbawa, the council was to improve on waste dumped at the site by producing fertilizers and tarmac, consequently creating job opportunities for the village youths.
But, he laments, they were deceived by the council who rather, decided to use the site as a dumping area — as they never meant to manufacture anything there.
“The Council deceived us by making us to believe the dump site was to improve on waste for the betterment of the village, but instead brought sickness to our community. Even the annual payment rent agreement of the land is not being adhered to,” Chief Fogbawa says.
Numerous times, the chief continues, people have fallen sick as a direct result of the black flies.
“We don’t even have basic protective gears like windows, ceilings, nets, et cetera, to protect us from the flies. We have told them to relocate the dump site, but they have refused because they are not taking proper care of the place.
“They don’t apply chemicals neither spray the insects; and worrying of all, we don’t even have a single health center here. Our health is at risk if government and other partners doesn’t intervene,” he said.
Manager Waste Management Department Kenema City Council Mohammed Ediatimah Towoyah Ngevao says the council met the community people three years back to provide them ten acres of land for dumping waste which they accepted and is now officially owned by the Council and the people of Kenema City.
Ngevao notes that most waste coming from the city center including waste from the two biggest markets — Fisheries and the Gbongboto — are dumped at the site.
He claims that they have been manufacturing fertilizers from the waste and supported banks and the Agriculture Ministry in Kenema.
Ngevao however downplays the enormity of the black flies’ invasion at Tilorma village acknowledging the council’s awareness of the issues.
“The Council is aware of the situation. It has just gotten serious because we have so much waste now at the place and during this season of rains, you normally expect these flies,” he said.
Ngevao says the load of waste being deposited at the dump site outweighs the strength in capacity of the two equipment — tractor and bulldozer — task at clearing the field of trash.
This, he says, is a major challenge, and that the council will try to remedy the problem.
“Though we are challenged with logistics, we will apply fumigation and more chemicals to the site to salvage the situation,” he says.
Kenema Waste Management Project Land Field Site Officer Alfred Mark Fullah — overseeing the Tilorma dump site — communicated the issue to the Environmental Health Directorate, according to an official.
Senior Health Superintendent Eric Moosa says EHD is aware of the situation and health concerns — and that, they are implementing ways to save the people’s well-being.
“This issue came up in our District Security Committee (DISEC) meeting today. A team will travel this afternoon to the Village to apply disinfections on the waste to get rid of the flies,” Musa says.