….As Liberians observe World Water Day 2015 – By: WASH R&E “Media” Network – Liberia over the weekend joined countries around the world to observe World Water Day under theme, “Water and Sustainable Development”.
The day itself was full of pageantry with several side attractions aimed at making the 2015 World Water Day observance a memorable occasion.
The day was graced by government officials, international partners in the WASH sector, the Liberia WASH Civil Society Organizations Network, students and Liberians of all works of life.
During the elaborate and coordinated observance of the Day, the Liberia Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) WASH Network criticized government for playing lip-service to the issue of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).
Addressing a News Conference at programs marking World Water Day, a member of the CSOs, Timothy Kpeh said there was no need for the Government of Liberia to celebrate World Water Day.
He quoted WASH CSOs as saying, there’s nothing to celebrate when majority of Liberians lack access to improved WASH services.
According to him, government should not celebrate a day that has to do with the provision of safe water, when Liberians are still not accessing safe water and improved sanitation.
Timothy who is also the Executive Director of the Youth and Disabled WASH Network wants government implement all decisions reached regarding the improvement of the WASH sector, especially the 17 recommendations embedded in the Liberia WASH Compact.
He said, out of the 17 recommendations enshrined in the Compact, a document formulated by government and its international partners to address the issue of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene(WASH), nothing much has be done on the part of government.
In the Liberia WASH Compact, the government should have ensured the establishment of a WASH Commission since three years ago, something the Liberian government is yet to do.
The Liberia CSOs WASH Network has disclosed that if the Liberian Government fails to establish a WASH Commission within 90 days, it will take legal actions against the government.
The CSOs hoped that government will take the 90-day ultimatum serious and act in the interest of the Liberian people by establishing a WASH Commission that will regulate water and sanitation activities across the country.
They blamed the Liberian Leader, who is also a WASH Good Will Ambassador for Africa, for not doing much to improve improved WASH services in her own country.
The Liberia WASH CSOs Network wants President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to demonstrate the political will in ensuring access to Improved WASH facilities.
Speaking earlier at the program, Public Works Minister, Gyude Moore said the WASH sector in addressing water and sanitation issues should also consider challenges.
He said serving as Public Works Minister for the period of three months now, he has discovered that there is a great need for water and sanitation services in several parts of the country, especially rural areas.
He assured that as Public Works Minister, he will ensure that the WASH sector is given a serious priority in the Ministry’s next Budget”.
Minister Moore said the issue of fragmentation is a serious factor affecting the smooth operation of the Liberian WASH sector.
He said plans have been worked out by his Ministry to put in place a governance structure that will guard the sector.
Minister Moore used the occasion to applaud WASH Sector Actors for the level of coordination existing among them as partners.
The Public Works Ministry has a Department of Rural Services that with a responsibility to provide water and sanitation services to rural Liberia.
Minister Moore wants government and partners support institutions that are playing lead role in the sector to enable them address WASH issues.
Also making remarks, the Acting Team Leader of WaterAid Liberia and Sierra Leone, Chuchu Selma said advocacy is the key for the delivery of water and sanitation services.
The WaterAid Boss said his Institution’s support to advocacy activities is mainly aimed at raising issues in the WASH sector and creating a platform in addressing the issues.
Mr. Selma asserted that water is a fundamental requirement for human existence and development of any society.
He called for cordiality in the sector amongst WASH Actors with the aim at making the provision of water and sanitation services a reality.
Commenting on the observance of the day, Oxfam Liberia Country Director, Mamadu Salifu said the new generation of Liberians expect to see water running into their homes like how TV and telephone services are now.
Mr. Salifu indicated that at such, it is imperative for the Government and partners to expedite all efforts in making the provision of WASH services accessible to all Liberians.
The Oxfam Boss said it is a fine development to reduce the distances some Liberians use to collect water, but stressed the issues of protection, comfort and dignity around collecting water, especially at a certain distance from home should be addressed.
He said the major challenge the sector has with a young generation that is attached to modern technology is that water should be accessible in their various homes.
For his part, the Coordinator of the Liberia WASH Consortium, Drake Ssenyange, spoke of the importance of the WASH sector.
He also spoke of the need for collective efforts by partners to ensure that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) needs are addressed.
Mr. Ssenyange said the WASH sector can achieve a lot more, once there is a team work in achieving priorities.
In a related development, the Head of the National Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Committee, Abdul Koroma described this year’s observance of World Water Day as the most coordinated event.
He said the observance of the Day enabled partners from local and International organizations, including Government to share views on how the sector should move forward.
Mr. Koroma described the level of cooperation leading to a successful observance of the day so far as the best.
He revealed that Civil Society Organizations are good partners to government and as such their criticism should be seen as a kind of reminded for the government to always make good its promises.
Responding to the ultimatum of the WASH CSOs, the Liberian government said it is not insensitive to the challenges faced in the sector, but has done a lot to provide basic WASH services to its citizens.
Government, through the Information Ministry said it was unfair for Civil Society Organizations to say President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her government have not done much to address the issue of access to WASH services in Liberia.
The government has meanwhile disclosed that it is negotiating with European partners to provide 60 million dollars to the WASH sector of Africa, as some of the efforts it has applied for Improved WASH services.
The observance of World Water Day 2015 was marked by cultural performances, Boat Race and the Launch of the Sector Multi-Media Strategy, among others.