It should come as no surprise to hear that hygiene and sanitation is a challenge in Sierra Leone, and more specifically Freetown.
Whether it’s a lack of basic toilet facilities, or waste management in general, this place is decades behind the UK. For example, Freetown has just 10 rubbish trucks for 800 tonnes of waste produced per day, whereas Hull has 30 trucks for 200 tonnes.
As such, there simply isn’t the infrastructure to support the sheer number of human beings doing their daily business on a daily basis.
This means that many men and children routinely relieve themselves in the street. But unlike Wayne Rooney and thousands of university students, they aren’t boozed up and minutes away from a working toilet. They often don’t have a choice – there isn’t a quality toilet for them to use in their vicinity.
After 14 months of Freetown living here and 10 in our gaffe in Congo Town (or Banana Water, or even White Man’s Bay – there is conjecture), I’m still not quite used to it. Very regularly I can’t help saying “come on, mate” under my breath when passing someone decorating a wall or gutter.
Where we live we have what you might call an interesting view – at just ten feet from the sea this can vary from (a) a glorious vista out to the Atlantic Ocean, (b) rubbish wading around in the sea, (c) random dogs fighting and...yes, everyone’s favourite – (d) men wazzing into the sea at all times of day. Lovely.
As you might expect, it isn’t exactly joyful watching chap after chap (of all ages) go over to the waterfront and do what they’ve got to do. It’s frequently met with a similar sigh and rueful chuckle, such as when you see someone pissing next to a ‘nor piss naya’ (or ‘don’t piss here’) sign on a main road.
This might be being a tad uncouth here, but I count myself amongst the army of people who see little bother in going for a number one in the sea when swimming. It’s simply not taboo.
Which makes me wonder whether it’s simply being a bit wet (see what I did there) to tut at people weeing into the sea from the mainland. It’s all the same sea and everything ends up there eventually – so why does it matter if it’s done in eye shot of the offender’s community?
Then I come to my senses. And go back to my tried and trusted tutting and slightly condescending rendition of "come on, mate."