LIBERIA: WASH CSOs successfully commemorate Water Action Month

By: WASH R&E “Media” Network – Civil Society Organizations in Liberia doing advocacy for safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, have successfully commemorated Water Action Month (March 2017).

WASH Petition received by an official of the Public Works Ministry, on behalf of the Minister, who was at the time attending AMCOW's Water Summit in Durban, South Africa.

WASH Petition received by an official of the Public Works Ministry, on behalf of the Minister, who was at the time attending AMCOW’s Water Summit in Durban, South Africa.

The Liberia WASH CSOs commemorated the Month with series of activities, with support from WaterAid Liberia-Sierra Leone, ranging from sit in actions, radio and TV talk shows, among others.

The commemoration of the day started with a radio Talk show at Fabric FM with George Karyah of the Liberia NGOs Network and Timothy Kpeh of United Youth for Education Development and Transparency appearing as guests on the show.

The two civil society WASH actors outlined several factors affecting the water, sanitation and hygiene sector of Liberia ranging fragmentation, governance and financing.

CSO Members at the Health Ministry posting for photo after the WASH Petition

CSO Members at the Health Ministry posting for photo after the WASH Petition

Karyah and Kpeh informed the public on the talk show that CSO actors are not really seeing the political-will from heads of line Ministries.

They indicated that these actions prove that they do not have interest in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector of the country.

According them, several Ministers in fact do not attend functions related to WASH, instead lower Managers who do not have influence in making decisions at the Ministries are the ones attending WASH meetings.

Both men disclosed that the celebration of the Month, with which World Water Day is annually observed is intended to create awareness in Liberia about the need for the provision of safe drinking water for the poorest in the Liberian society.

The two WASH actors used the radio platform calling on government to do more to ensure that  Liberians have access to better WASH services.

On another Talk Show arranged by the WASH R&E “Media” Network with support from WaterAid on Power Radio and TV, the Policy Officer of WaterAid Liberia-Sierra Leone, Patience Zayzay said the role of institutions to assist government  and  WASH CSOs to ensure WASH issues are addressed properly, can’t be over emphasized.

Miss Zayzay asserted that the celebration of Water Action Month is to remind Governments around the world about the struggle the poorest in society undergo in search of safe drinking water.

Reading of CSOs WASH Petition at the Public Works Ministry

Reading of CSOs WASH Petition at the Public Works Ministry

For her part, the WASH Officer of SHALOM, Lusu Gibson stressed the need for the government of Liberia to get proactive showing the political will in supporting WASH in Liberia.

Madam Gibson said the issues of financing and governance are two crucial issues affecting the forward movement of the WASH sector.

Also, appearing on another Talk Show arranged by the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia on Truth FM, WaterAid Liberia-Sierra Leone, Deputy Country Director, Chuchu Selma said his organization is working with the local partners and government in creating an enabling environment for WASH.

Mr. Selma said in a bid to ensure that the environment is enabling, his organization has put in place programs working with local CSOs to carry out advocacy in the sector.

He said the celebration of Water Action Month or World Water Day globally is to raise awareness on the difficulties millions undergo on a daily basis searching for water, adding Liberia is no exception.

WASH Petition received by the Deputy Health Minister, on behalf of the Ministry

WASH Petition received by the Deputy Health Minister, on behalf of the Ministry

Also, appearing on the Truth Bread Fast Show, the acting Coordinator of the National WASH Secretariat and Data Base Manager said government is doing all it can to provide the needed WASH services the citizens are in dire need of.

Mr. Habbaku Sackor said several policies and actions have been executed by government in collaboration with development partners to bring about sanity to the WASH sector.

He named water point mapping, updates of WASH in schools, repair, reconstruction and construction of WASH facilities are all part of efforts of government.

Still on the World Water Day celebration, WASH CSOs held several sit in actions at WASH line Ministries calling on them to take affirmative action in improving the sector.

Presenting a petition at the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning, the Liberia WASH CSOs Network called on the Ministry to ensure that WASH is considered an item in the fiscal budget.

The WASH Civil society organizations called for increased financial support to the sector to enable it provide the necessary services the Liberian people need.

Receiving the petition, Finance Minister assured WASH Civil Society actors that his Ministry will ensure that the sector receive the necessary support.

Minister Boimah Kamara pointed out that safe drinking water is key to good health.

The Finance Boss described as a shame to note that in this 21st century for people to still drink from creeks.

He said appropriate action will be taken to help improve the WASH sector of the country.

During another sit in action by the WASH CSOs, hosted by the SHALOM Inc, the Ministry of Health as a line Ministry was called upon to ensure that issues of water is addressed in Liberia.

Reading the petition statement on behalf of SHALOM, its Executive Director, Kannue  Massally said the need for safe drinking water cannot be overemphasized, especially in the health sector.

Massally called for appropriate measures and actions by the Ministry provide the platform for an improved WASH delivery.

Responding, Deputy Health Minister, Tolbert Nyanswa commended the Group for taking the boar by the horn.

Minister Nyanswa said the petition will be acted on as government was doing all it can to improve WASH in Liberia.

WASH Petition received by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning

WASH Petition received by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning

He said as part of government’s efforts, the Public Health Institution has been established to address the issues of public health of which water is a major component.

For her part, Health Minister, Bernice Dahn speaking to WASH Journalists said the government is committed to ensure that WASH services are improved in the health sector.

Dr. Dahn indicated that there are several steps now taken by her Ministry to prioritize the water, sanitation and hygiene in the health delivery sector of the country.

At the Ministry of Public Works, the Liberia NGOs Network presented another petition calling on the Ministry leading the WASH sector to do all it can to implement policies developed for the sector.

Reading the petition on behalf of the Group, the Head, George Karyah called on the Ministry to be practical in making sure that issues in the sector are addressed.

Also, as part of series of WASH petitions, the United Youth for Peace, Education, Transparency & Development in Liberia has petitioned the House of Senate to concord with the House of Representatives in the passage of a Bill calling for the establishment of a WASH Commission in Liberia.

There is a need that every Liberian work to address these challenges in the WASH sector.

Receiving the petition on behalf of the Upper House, Senator Jonathan Kaipee Grand Bassa county extolled efforts of WASH CSOs and promised that the petition will be given the necessary attention.

In a related development, Liberia WASH CSOs have written President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, WASH Ambassador for Africa.

The WASH CSOs said since the constitution of the WASH Board, only one inaugural meeting has been held since 2015 to present, no visible action in the form of policy regulation has been put in place for the running of the Board.

The Group said since the beginning of the High-Level Meeting on WASH in 2010, Liberia has been represented predominantly by junior officials of Government.

The WASH CSO Group said due to this, the country commitments presented to the international Steering Committee on Sanitation and Water for All is often not prioritized by government officials in line Ministries responsible for WASH.

The CSO WASH Actors called on the President as WASH Board Chairperson to put into action the National Water Resource and Sanitation Board, by convening a technical sitting of the Board where technical decisions on the WASH sector can be reached.

They want the WASH Goodwill Ambassador for Africa to ensure senior Ministers of the Ministries of Public Works, Health, Lands, Mines and Energy attend this year (2017 April) High Level Meeting on WASH.

The conclusion commemorating Water Action Month followed elaborate programs marking the observance of World Water Day on March 22, 2017.