By: WASH R&E Network – March 22 ever year is observed as World Water Day. Liberia is joining other countries around the world to celebrate the Day with series of activities. The World Water Day 2013 activities organized by the Liberia Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) Network embarked on Sit-in Actions at Ministries of Health & Social Welfare, Lands, Mines & Energy, Public Works and Finance.
The objective seeks to increase public financing of water, sanitation and hygiene in the National Budget, social and county development funds with special emphasis on key WASH public service delivery entities like the four Ministries where Sit-in-Actions were held.
The object was also designed to remind especially the Liberian government to improve governance in the WASH sector through influencing government to establish and strengthen institutional capacity by the signing of Executive Order establishing a WASH Commission and the appointment of a National Water Resources and Sanitation Board.
Also as part of activities marking World Water Day 2013, The Liberia WASH CSOs Network has embarked on the collection of ten thousand (10,000) signatures for the online Keep Your Promise to water and sanitation petition, among others.
World Water Day activities started officially on Monday March 18, 2003 with a Sit-in-Action at the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in Congo town outside Central Monrovia with the CSO WASH Network of Liberia Presenting a petition to the health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale.
Liberia WASH CSO members were seen with placards with the slogans: “Sanitation is Dignity”, “Water is Human Right”, and “Do something to stop this Open Defecation”, among others.
Presenting the Keep Your Promises 2013 Petition, the Liberia WASH CSOs Network Chairman, Prince Kreplah called on authorities at the Health & Social Welfare Ministry to keep their promises by taking action to end water and sanitation crisis.
According to Mr. Kreplah, funds allotted in the National Budget to by the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health Department is too little to enable the Department effectively function..
The WASH CSOs Network-Liberia wants the budget increase for the Environmental and Occupational Health Department to make it more robust in addressing issues surrounding clean and safe drinking water, Sanitation and Hygiene in the country.
The Group in the petition recounted WASH commitments made by the Liberian government to provide an enabling WASH environment as improved water service access by 5%, Increase water and sanitation service access to primary schools and rural health facilities by at least 10%, increase water and sanitation budgets annually by at least 15%. The Group further called on the GOL to disaggregate budget lines for water and sanitation.
In response, Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale commended the group for the bold step taken in raising awareness about the danger involved due to the lack of safe drinking water.
Dr. Gwenigale stressed that safe drinking water is key to good health, adding all Liberians should be at the fore front assisting government to make sure that safe and clean drinking water is provided.
The Liberia Health Minister however frowned on some residents who are constructing houses without toilets facilities, describing such as risky and a serious contributor to Open Defecation.
Dr. Gwenigale used the occasion to assure the CSO group that the Health Ministry will give priority to issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in all of its activities
The Liberia CSOs WASH Network Sit-in-Action was extended to the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy where another petition was presented with the aim to accelerate efforts made by Government and partners in the WASH Sector.
Though the petition was presented after several hours, authorities at the Land, Mines and Energy Ministry gave the petitioners an initial poor reception.
The CSO petitioners arrived at the Ministry at about 8:30am on Wednesday March 20, 12013 and waiting up to 2:00pm before a junior Minister came down reluctantly to received the petition on behalf of his boss, Minister Patrick Sendolo,
According to Assistant Minister Jenkins Atuanya, the Minister proper was out attending a meeting at the National Legislature of which he could not be present to receive their petition.
Assistant Minister Atuaya, however commended the CSO group for the level of patience and civility shown by sitting for several hours to present the petition.
He assured that the petition will be forwarded to the Minister and added that the Ministry is committed to ensuring that issues of water, sanitation and hygiene are given serious priority in the country.
The Liberia CSOs WASH Network urged the Lands, Mines and Energy Ministry to seek for the establishment of the WASH Commission and Board, and to also persuade the President in signing the Executive Order to establish the WASH Commission and Board.
The Liberia CSOs WASH Network on the following day took its Sit-in-Action the Ministries of Public Works and Finance in Monrovia where petitioners repeated the same demand to senior officials at the two Ministries about the issues of WASH in Liberia.
Speaking on behalf of Public Works Minister, Koffi Woods who is currently out of the country, Deputy Public Works Minister for Administration, Steven Yekerson (Acting Minister), said as a lead Ministry in the WASH sector in Liberia, it is committed to all efforts geared toward improving the WASH environment in Liberia.
Deputy Minister Yekerson said the leadership of the Ministry will ensure that the necessary allocations are made in the national budget to provide financial support to the WASH sector.
Later at the Finance Ministry, the Coordinator of Budget Policy Unit, Tanneh Bronson, received the petition on behalf of Finance Minister, Amara Konneh who is out of the country on a medica trip. Madam Benson assured said the Ministry will take into consideration all of the contents stipulated in the petition, stressing that water issue affects everyone regardless of status.
She pointed out that water has been placed as a priority of the Government in the next budget and hopes that there will be substantial allocation in budget for water, sanitation and hygiene issues which are critical.
Data released by the United Nations and the World Bank, over 30% of the population of Liberia does not have access to safe drinking water, while 85% lacks safe sanitation facilities, and that 1.7 million people defecate in the open due to unavailability of toilet facilities.
World Water Day is being observed under the global theme: “Water Corporation”, while “Keeping Yours Promises” is used as a local theme.
The International observance of World Water Day is an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference and Development in Rio de Janeiro.
The United Nations General Assembly designated 22nd March of each year as the World Day for water by adopting a resolution.