LIBERIA: ODF Communities in Margibi didn’t experience Ebola outbreak

…Living Water Int’l Extolled for CLTS Initiative – By: WASH R&E “Media” Network – Several Open Defecation Free (ODF) communities in Margibi county have not experienced an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease.

A toilet/bathroom in Karnga Town, built by a resident due to the CLTS Initiative by LWI Liberia

A toilet/bathroom in Karnga Town, built by a resident due to the CLTS Initiative by LWI Liberia

Ambulah Town, Gibi District, Margibi County

Ambulah Town, Gibi District, Margibi County

Keeping latrine facilities clean in Kenemu, Gibi District

Keeping latrine facilities clean in Kenemu, Gibi District

A mother of Soko Town explaining the importance of the CLTS Initiative by Living Water Int'l in Margibi

A mother of Soko Town explaining the importance of the CLTS Initiative by Living Water Int’l in Margibi

Pit used by residents of Guinemu to dispose garbage

Pit used by residents of Guinemu to dispose garbage

A total of nine communities were over the past two years declared ODF in Margibi, three in 2013 and six in 2014, prior to the Ebola outbreak in Liberia.

The first three communities include Ambulah, Gaylaylah and Joe Vahn Towns in Gibi and Kakata Districts respectively, while the other six communities include Kangar, Soko, Guinemu, Bawoa, Kenemu and Kono Towns in Gibi District, Margibi County.

They were triggered by Living Water International (LWI-Liberia) as part of the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Initiative and later validated by a team from the Ministries of Health & Social Welfare, Education, Agriculture, Public Works, and the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.

The communities are still doing everything possible to maintain their ODF status and remain healthy, according to a 2-day Fact Finding Assessment by the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia (WASH R&E).

The Assessment which was part of the observance of World Water Day (March 22) 2015, was intended to verify that communities declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) through Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) did not experience any case of the Ebola outbreak, despite other surrounding communities in Marbibi county that experienced worst cases.

Margibi is amongst several counties in Liberia hard hit by the Ebola virus, leaving some communities falling prey to the deadly disease.

The ODF communities continue to observe improved sanitation and hygiene practices, including all Ebola preventive measures.

The residents first commanded God for protecting their communities against Ebola and also commanded Living Water International (LWI) Liberia for the hygiene education and provision of improved WASH services.

“We are happy that Living Water came in to help us before this bad Ebola thing came” remarked most of the residents as they interacted with the Assessment Team from WASH R&E.

They expressed hope that CLTS Education could be taken to other communities and counties to ensure the people there are healthy also.

“Since the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in Liberia, specifically Margibi County, Kenemu has not experienced the Ebola virus” said Town Chief David Kenamah.

Town Chief Kenamah further disclosed that due to the CLTS triggering conducted by Living  Water International residents of the area are all aware of the importance of improved sanitation and hygiene practices.

He said residents keeping their various homes clean and following the preventive measures also helped greatly in preventing the Ebola outbreak.

When quizzed about residents who are not keeping their toilet facilities and yard hygienic, Town Chief Kenamah noted that individuals found in this practice are charged according to laws of the town.

The Town Chief praised the Christian charity for the CLTS initiative, adding, “we did not know that we were eating our own feces through flies and other insects, until Living Water came to our rescue”.

Town Chief Mr. Kenamah said before the town was triggered, open defecation was on the increase, thus resulting to the outbreak of several diseases.

“A single person from this town and other ODF communities never fall sick from Ebola due to our good sanitation behavior,” He added

He however appealed to Living Water International, government of Liberia and other parts to assist the town with a clinic and agriculture tools to empower community residents who are interested in getting involved in agriculture activities.

Residents of the other ODF Communities in the District also revealed that there was no reported case of Ebola in their respective towns and villages.

The community residents are of the strong conviction that good hygiene practices taught them by Living Water International (LWI) Liberia has contributed immensely to the prevention of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in their communities.

For his part, the Youth Leader of  Ambulah Town, Joseph Kollie said  CLTS introduced in their community assisted the area in combating various water borne diseases and not only Ebola virus.

Kollie said since the Ebola virus was reported in the County and District, no case has been reported in Ambulah Town.

He said residents are still holding on to the best practices of sanitation and hygiene, practices that have assisted community residents in combating several diseases.

The story is just the same in all the ODF communities in Margibi county the from the Assessment conducted by the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.

It was discovered that all of the ODF communities have all safety measures in place and they are still carrying out CLTS activities.

But despite of the success story, these communities still have some challenges facing them.

Roads and safe drinking water are issues residents of Kanga, Soko and Gunimu Towns revealed that are hampering their existence.

The residents are calling on Living Water International, the government of Liberia and other partners to provide safe drinking water and assist them embark on a self-help road construction project.

The residents vowed that they will continue to promote CLTS, and further disclosed that there are also plans to assist other communities do the same in reaching ODF status.

Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is an Initiative that is designed to encourage community residents to take the issue of improved sanitation into their own hands.

It provides the platform for communities to put in place a measure that is intended to improve the hygienic condition in their respective localities.

The CLTS method has helped many communities in the country to keep their environment clean through the best practices of sanitation and hygiene.

Through the CLTS Initiative, several communities have built their own toilet facilities, hand wash stations, dish rocks, and clothes lines, among others.

WASH R&E is also commanding Living Water International for the Initiative and urged other organizations to emulate such value.