Liberia: Soniwein Residents complain of offensive odor

…As Drainage Contaminates Underground Water – By: WASH R&E “Media” Network – The proper handling of garbage and the maintenance of drainages in Monrovia and surroundings have become an unabated scenario for the Liberian Government and its international partners involved in waste management in a country ravaged by nearly fifteen years of civil unrest.

Burst sewer pipe at Soniwein

Burst sewer pipe at Soniwein

Children openly defecate in front of the Soniwein Public Toilet

Children openly defecate in front of the Soniwein Public Toilet

Feces discharged into the Soniwein drainage illicitly from one of the houses in the community

Feces discharged into the Soniwein drainage illicitly from one of the houses in the community

Offensive odor due to continuous open defecation and poor sanitary condition in the Soniwein Community

Offensive odor due to continuous open defecation and poor sanitary condition in the Soniwein Community

As one may term it, the disposal of garbage including drainages maintenance around Monrovia is an up and down issue described as perplexity. Some times in some weeks of the year, designated garbage sites are disposed and drainages are cleaned.

But within few days, those garbage sites and drainages will get worst as though they have not being cleaned for years. This issue, according to a Waste Management Personnel, Daniel Torqui “the persistent garbage and drainages issue which has become uncontrollable is due to the over population of Monrovia”.

The City of Monrovia hosted about 150 thousand inhabitants prior to the Liberian civil conflict, but now Monrovia hosts half of the Nation’s 3.5 million people.

Mr. Torqui said before the civil war the population of Monrovia was small and drainages constructed were able to serve the population at that time, without past leaders taking into consideration that the population could increase as years passed by.

While government and waste partners are struggling to handle the sanitation condition of Liberia, a community located in Central Monrovia, the slum dwellers of Soniwein are bearing the blunt.

Speaking to the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia, the Soniwein Health Center Officer–In–Charge, Irene G. Sherman, described the sanitary condition for residents in that  community as very bad.

Madam Sherman: “from recently conducted survey in the Soniwein Community shows that the underground water in the area is completely contaminated as such, the only source of safe drinking water for residents of Soniwein is mineral water, most of which is now locally produced”.

Due to the underground water contamination in the community, Madam Sherman Pointed out, a hand-pump constructed at the clinic’s facility is not useful for drinking.

She said currently, similar water from private wells and the clinic hand-pump is used for laundry and bathing due squarely to the drainage that is running through the Soniwein Community.

“The only source that residents can have access to safe drinking water is through the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC) to provide them with pipe borne water, which they are lacking of currently”, she asserted.

“As part of our work, the clinic is involved in outreach program by encouraging the residents of the community to keep their environment clear by controlling their waste and feces but our efforts are not yielding the necessary results as you can see” Madam Sherman mentioned.

She said, although the clinic is catering to other people from various communities, but cases of illnesses that are prevalence among the Soniwein residents are  malaria and diarrhea. This is because of the poor sanitary she further stressed.

Madam Sherman further disclosed that on the issue of garbage collection, it is gradually improving because the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) and Representative Acarous Gray of District # 8 have promised residents to ensure that the issue will be taken care of, something now happening over the past days resulting to the cleaning of the huge garbage.

Also, Mr. Hilary Johnson, who sells locally produced mineral water in the Soniwein Community, said that for now it is raining so it is much better but during the Dry Season, the situation is worst because the demand for water is high.

“Like for me and other people selling mineral and LWSC water, our businesses are going but it is not a good thing, let LWSC extend its facility to the community and ease the problem of safe drinking water in Soniwein”, Mr. Johnson stated.

Meanwhile, the Co–Chairman for Soniwein Independent Elections Commission, Benedict Wollor, has attributed the misused of the Soniwein Drainage to the connection of bath and toilet pump lines by residents.

Mr. Wollor said the over six public latrines and several bathrooms constructed in the community do not have slept-tanks as you can see the pumps are running in the drainage, “he stressed”.

“Look these facilities, some are functioning and do you know the number of people that can use them on a  daily basis then take into consideration the output of feces, it is very huge” Mr. Wollor indicated.

He said although, the Government of Liberia and its waste management partners may be faced with numerous challenges, but the residents failure to also take the initiative to control and properly handle their own waste is a major problem too.

“Walk in the community and you will see waste scatter all over including the connecting drainages to the main drainage, majority of the residents do consciously, without taking into account their own health and the rest of the people” he noted.

According to Mr. Wollor, what is blessing them as residents is that the rain hasn’t pour down much, but if it happens and the drainage overflows, their homes will be flooded with feces, something he said is worrisome as the heavy rains gradually approach.

Soniwein is a populated community in Monrovia that needs serious attention if the issue of improved WASH must be achieved.

Visit to the Soniwein Community is part of the “Exclusive Media Focus on Sanitation” by the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia with support from WaterAid in Liberia and Sierra Leone.