Written by: Pam Platt, WaterStep Communications Specialist
WaterStep Nation doesn’t belong to one continent or one hemisphere. It lives in the 70 countries around the world where communities and people are taking care of their own water needs, building upon the safe water and sanitation technology and teaching of WaterStep.
To date, they are 11 million strong and WaterStep Nation is wherever they are.
Today, we will go to Sierra Leone in West Africa, and we will meet Abdul Kamara, 34 years old, affiliated with WaterStep since 2022.
That’s when he joined another young Sierra Leonean, named Karim Kamara, aka Stylish, in efforts to improve their country’s public health and sanitation, by using WaterStep’s M-100 ChlorineGenerators to treat water and BleachMakers for disinfectant for schools, health centers, clinics, and the people in them. He estimates more than 35,000 people are using the safe water they are able to produce.
The joy in Abdul’s voice is apparent when he says he feels blessed and happy every day in being able to contribute to saving lives of those in an underdeveloped country whose citizens are vulnerable to waterborne disease and death. One in 10 people throughout the world live with water-insecurity.
But there is much more to Abdul’s story when it comes to his motivation for safe water, for sharing with Sierra Leoneans how to easily and efficiently make chlorine in a way that helps them, saves them.
And this, too, is entwined with WaterStep’s own history.
Nine years ago, Abdul was one of the 28,616 cases of the deadly Ebola virus outbreak in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone from 2014-2016.
The virus, which causes massive internal bleeding in its victims, is spread via human-to-human transmission. Areas with unsafe water, little access to sanitation and little to no health care infrastructure, are ripe for such a spread. There also was little to no understanding of what the virus was, or how it spread, or how to fight it among Abdul’s family and acquaintances, and infections occurred even with burials. This outbreak killed 11,310 people — including 27 members of Abdul’s family.
His mother and father died in their seven-house village. His uncle died. His brother died in front of him.
Abdul was not spared. He also got very sick. After being rejected by other overcrowded hospitals he became part of an overrun medical facility where he and other Ebola sufferers were doused with strong liquid concentrations of chlorine, the only “medicine” he said he received in “the red zone” wards, where Ebola patients were sent.
Somehow, he survived Ebola. And over time he got well. And he lived to see an aunt driven from the village because she was from a family that had suffered with Ebola. And Abdul thought, “This is not the way.” Everyone should be accepted, he believed, and his next work would carry that goal.
Enter Karim Kamara, working with WaterStep since 2019. Abdul remembers the handwashing stations Karim had, with buckets and soap, and knew he wanted to be part of it, wanted to support communities with access to these tools and this knowledge. He wanted to share the good that water made safe by chlorine bleach could do for people and places. And he has been working to save lives ever since.
Here is where there is one of those exhilarating intersections found in WaterStep Nation.
On waterstep.org, comes this snippet of history, of synchronicity:
In 2014 while Abdul was suffering from the loss of his family and from contracting Ebola himself, on the other side of world WaterStep was made aware of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The BleachMaker was developed as a response to this epidemic – not to douse on those suffering from the disease, but to combat the virus by disinfecting surfaces, cooking areas and equipment; putting small doses in handwashing stations; and using for medical waste clean-up.
From the site: “Chlorine bleach is the World Health Organization’s recommended disinfectant to stop the spread of infectious disease and it’s the most commonly used disinfectant/sanitizer in the world. The BleachMaker produces a bleach concentration that meets the WHO standard for disinfection in a medical setting.”
In other words, the BleachMaker can be used to stop Ebola in its tracks.
And it is being used by Abdul, who survived the outbreak that brought about the invention and production of the BleachMaker, to protect and save lives.