20 April 2018

Sierra Leone: Rebuilding in a Sierra Leone Village, Three Years On

Photo: RFI
In Rogbasha, Sierra Leone, Imam Mohamed Konteh shows his dilapidated mosque

In the small village of Rogbasha in Bombali district, Sierra Leone, life has almost returned to normal, three-and-half years after the end of the Ebola outbreak. Villagers sit around the big tree just off the main road that cuts their village in two, discussing the issues with the crops they usually plant: cassava and rice and groundnuts. Things are better since Ebola, but the people still face a number of challenges.

"I'm doing some gardening in the swamp, planting potato leaves," says Karatsu Bangura, 38, who farms with her husband to support her family of 15. She plans to sell them at market so she can pay for school fees for her children.

"The potato leaves aren't doing great, but I have to deal with what's available," she says.

One of her neighbors in this tiny village of 150 people, Aminata Forna, 20, talks about feeding her children potatoes and soup. Despite the end of Ebola more than three years ago, she says, her family only eat once a day.

RFI visited Rogbasha village when Ebola struck in 2014, talking to the frustrated farmers who were not allowed to farm together, nor go to market.

"We suffered a lot. It was not easy because of the restriction of movement, for the community, and the country as a whole," says Amidou Tolley, 55, the deputy head of the village.

"There are three problems here in the village," says Tolley. "One is a lack of good toilet facilities for the entire township; we don't have a community center, and then there's the mosque problem," he said, pointing at a mud-brick building in the distance with a dilapidated zinc roof.

Although the farmers say they have problems with their crops and toilet facilities, not having a functioning mosque is perhaps the biggest issue for everyone.

"If you look at this," says farmer James B. Tolley, pointing to the mosque, "you see that we suffer. It is almost about to finish [fall down]."

The reason for its current poor condition is indirectly due to the anti-Ebola measures put in place by the Sierra Leonean government during the deadly crisis in 2014. People were not allowed to gather in groups, and the village were not able to maintain the building.

Rogbasha Imam Mohamed Konteh would like to have a functioning mosque for the next Ramadan, but he says there are no resources. And there is also a safety issue.

"When there is a strong wind, we feel scared," says Konteh. "One time we were praying and part of the wall gave way," he says, explaining that they can only use the building weather permitting.

"We thought we were going to die - so sometimes, when there's a strong wind, we have to finish our prayers outside," says the village Imam.

He says he would like to invite people outside of the village to come pray with them, but they are embarrassed at the state of their mosque. For Friday prayers, worshippers walk to another village.

Ultimately, a mosque is what everyone wants, which they believe would foster more community spirit.

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