Post-Ebola, West African hospitals continue their struggle for water

  • Three years after the region’s Ebola outbreak began, health clinics in a Monrovia slum are still without running water and functioning toilets
  • WaterAid launches new campaign to improve water, sanitation and hygiene conditions in hospitals around the world

Nurses stopping mid-treatment to haul water. Janitors taking placentas home to be buried, for lack of an incinerator. Patients with no choice but to relieve themselves in dirty fields outside the hospital.

Post Ebola Western AfricaThese conditions and more are captured in a new photo gallery from Liberia, where, nearly 18 months after the country was declared free of Ebola, hospitals and medical clinics still struggle to function with poor and intermittent water supplies and broken toilets and incinerators.

In the Monrovia suburb of Paynesville, which was quarantined during the Ebola epidemic, healthcare staff still report water shortages and overflowing toilets which put patients at risk of infection and disease.

Joe Lambongang, Regional Programme Manager/Interim Country Director, Liberia/Sierra Leone, said:

“It has been a year and a half since the horror of the Ebola epidemic ended and yet we see that many of the healthcare workers who fought so valiantly to save lives are today working in conditions which are very little changed: an unreliable water supply, backed-up toilets and incinerators that don’t work. This situation leaves doctors, nurses, midwives, cleaners and patients alike at serious risk of infection and illness. No healthcare professional can properly care for patients if they are unable to maintain a basic level of hygiene.

Post Ebola Western Africa“We are calling on healthcare professionals and those who support them to lobby governments, donors and international organisations to change this situation and ensure that everyone, everywhere has access to clean water, decent toilets and proper hygiene – whether they are at home, at school or in a hospital.”

An estimated 42% of healthcare facilities in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have access to water; studies have shown the situation in Liberia – which along with Sierra Leone and Guinea was the epicentre of the Ebola outbreak — is even worse.

One in four people (24.5%) in Liberia do not have access to clean water, while an astonishing 83% do not have access to basic, private toilets.

Post Ebola Western AfricaA baseline report on water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities in Liberia, conducted by a local NGO network, found:

  • Some 95% of health facilities do not meet Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (now Ministry of Health) standards for water quantity (1,600 gallons or 7,300 litres per day for a secondary-level health centre);
  • More than half of surveyed health facilities do not have a protected year-round source of water, and 20% do not have any protected source on site.
  • Average daily water use at primary care health facilities is 97 gallons, compared to the Ministry standard of 425 gallons. Only 4% (23 out of 528) of primary care health facilities reported using 425 gallons or more per day.
  • While 89% of health facilities reported having functioning handwashing stations, and a majority of these had soap or chlorinated water, only36% of handwashing stations near toilets had both water and soap or disinfectant.

On 15 October – Global Handwashing Day – WaterAid is launching a new campaign asking healthcare professionals to lobby for better water, sanitation and hygiene in health facilities around the world. For more information or to sign our global petition, please see