By: WASH R&E “Media Network – WaterAid Programme Manager for Liberia and Sierra Leone, Chuchu Selma has addressed Members of the Liberian senate on behalf of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) International Organizations in Liberia.
Mr. Selma spoke last Monday at the National Legislature during a WASH Public Hearing called by the Senate Committees on Public Corporations and Public Works & Rural Development to examine issues of water, sanitation and hygiene in Montserrado County in particular and Liberia in general.
Below is the full text of the Presentation made by Mr. Selma on the topic:
“International Organizations Support for Proper Sanitation, Clean Water and Adequate Hygiene in Liberia: Experiences and Challenges”.
Introduction: The Challenge before us
Liberia is among the one of the Sub-Saharan countries with a low human development index of 174 amongst 187 countries worldwide. One of the reasons for this is due to the growing poverty as a result of unimproved access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene services which is stopping at least 3.7million Liberians from walking away from poverty, 80% of Liberia’s women are not able to live a dignified life because of lack of safe toilets and anther 1.8million girds are not able to stay school because they spend time fetching water and risk rape due to lack of safe toilets.
Currently, only 25% of Liberians have access to safe drinking water, and 83% are without basic sanitation. Data from water point atlas indicate an even worse situation, that 2 million Liberians lack adequate access to safe water. National health data shows that over 1,300 children in Liberia under the age of five die each year of diarrhoeal diseases because they don’t have access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene services.
‘Water, sanitation and hygiene are fundamental to everyday life and have been recognized by the government as a Human Right. It is the responsibility of the Government of Liberia to provide, regulate and facilitate the services that will allow every citizen of Liberia to enjoy a better quality of life’, (GoL, WASH Sector Performance Report , April 2014).
International Partners support and commitment to GoL for improved WASH services
- Service Delivery: Of all 10,000 protected water points mapped out in 2010 by The GoL and its partners, only 189 were installed by the Government and another 221 had no indication regarding their installations. All other protected water points were installed by local and International relief and development partners including the UN, the Red Cross, Liberia WASH Consortium, UNICEF, religious bodies, and private companies and individuals. Other organizations like WaterAid continue to provide facilities for the poor and marginalised in hard-to-reach areas and this is in the face of infrastructural challenges which is pitting the lives of our staff and partners at risk due to bad roads and insecurity in some areas.
- Capacity Building: We as international organizations have supported efforts in building capacity of governments staff in affordable technologies, water quality testing, improving planning systems, developing capacity building plans, trainings on monitoring and support, providing logistics like transport, office equipment, monitoring tools, funding support, institutional reforms, and building the capacity of civil society to engage in policy processes and demand accountability.
- Policy and Institutional Reforms: Under this aspect of our support, certain policies have been developed and strengthen like the water supply policy, health systems support policy, sector investment plans, the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) compact,
- Community Development : We have supported community development through setting up and training community WASH committees, training of local pump technicians, supporting natural leaders to sustain and strengthen community sanitation programmers, linking them t the county health and water coordinators for further support and providing external support to maintain facilities and improve health gains
Furthermore, International partners have also supported the government to generate sector data necessary for sector planning and has supported the development of sector policies, strategies and plans including the national water, sanitation and hygiene sector investment plan which estimates a US$ 400m investment to achieve the 2017 WASH targets of reaching additional 1million people with water, 1.6 million people with sanitation and 1.9 million people with hygiene services to achieve a coverage of 79%, 63% and 56% for water, sanitation and hygiene respectively.
The International community and development partners have shown commitment and continue to pledge support toward the development of the WASH sector. According to the WASH Sector Performance Report of 2013, WASH funding accounted for 1.9% of the total Aid budget for fiscal year 2012/13 at US$12 million. In the second half of 2013, US$ 2.5million was spent on WASH by NGOs. The actual estimates are actually higher as some NGOs are yet to send in their reports.
The support in the coming year is likely to be higher given that fact that new partnerships have been developed and current approaches are developmental in nature as against emergency and humanitarian which was the case in the past.
What is required of the Government of Liberia
Min. Amara Konneh, Minister of Finance for Liberia at the 3rd Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) held on 11 April 2014 announced the establishment of the National Water and Sanitation Board Liberia and said the Board, as well as water and sanitation issues in general, will be prioritized in the national budget for the next fiscal year. The war is now ended. The GoL needs a medium to long term solution if the people of Liberia water and sanitation needs must be met adequately. There has to be a full transition to a country-led process in financing WASH service delivery, WASH data management, capacity development, regulation and sector oversight which means greater commitment and bold action from all branches of Government especially the Legislative. This commitment will need to be backed by laws and national policies which requires the attention and action of this august body. As such, government should:
- Harmonise all WASH-related departments by bringing them together under on coordinating institution to bring an end to lack of coordination and ensure that the budgeting process for WASH is led by one institution and streamlined financing and support form external actors will be simpler and effective.
- There should be a separate budget line for Water and sanitation in the national budget to ensure that funding is tracked against targets and the financing is reaching the most in need.
- Planning systems need to be improved with a robust monitoring and support systems that ensures that all relevant ministers are able to use the same planning and performance measurement tools to avoid disparities in data, targeting and reporting.
- County Development plans should include WASH and the CDF should have WASH under its priority funding areas
- Current human resource capacity needs to be strengthened by supporting training programmes and courses that can improve government’s capacity to
Why should Government take these steps:
- The World Bank Water and Sanitation Programme (WSP) has estimated that Liberia loses US$ 17.5 million per year due to poor sanitation. This amount is equivalent to US$ 4.9 per person per year in Liberia per year or 2.0% of the national GDP. This is because of poor sanitation, lack of adequate access to safe water and poor hygiene practices. Improved WASH services are critical to increasing national income as well as incomes of individuals and households living in poverty.
- Health costs: Studies conducted by WHO demonstrate that poor water and sanitation significantly contribute to malnutrition which leads to lower school productivity and work productivity from impaired cognitive function and learning capacity. Rates of moderate and severe stunting and underweight are high in children under five in Liberia, at 39% and 19%, respectively.
- Economic returns on water and sanitation projects are highly favorable. For a project appraisal carried out for the African Development Fund for water supply and sanitation in Monrovia, the economic rate of return on these services was 15% per annum.
- Spending on water and sanitation is not only politically popular and socially beneficial, but it makes good economic sense. Economic evidence supports that meeting and going beyond MDG targets to achieve universal water and sanitation coverage not only improves quality of life, but also bring tangible health, environmental and economic benefits. Improving access to sanitation and water contribute importantly to the achievement of other MDG targets.
- Sanitation and water interventions deliver economic returns of at least 5 times on investment, commonly with an annual rate of return of 20% or more. Furthermore, WSS services are basic services that are demanded by the population, with often strong willingness to pay for these services — when services are reliable.
WASH is strongly linked to poverty, health and nutrition, insecurity and inequality, gender, environment, livelihood and food security, climate change and natural resource management. Poor WASH Service affects maternal and new born health, limits education of girls and young women, denies women rights to equal opportunities, reduces economic empowerment of women and invigorates negative behaviors of the opposite sex towards women.
Existing Opportunities for Improvement in the Development of Liberia WASH Sector
- 1. Political Leadership and Commitment: Liberia has committed, through a WASH Compact developed by the GoL as part of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) initiative, to: (1) Establish and strengthen institutional capacity (2) Ensure equity and prioritized service provision (3) Develop a monitoring system and (4) Improve sector financing mechanisms. The Compact was approved by Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia, in January 2012.
- 2. Commitment from International partners – AfDB, WB, USAID, DFID, The Dutch Government, Irish aid and other development are still committed to investing in the development of Liberia’s WASH Sector. There are either plans to be financed or ongoing projects being financed by all of the above listed actors.
- 3. Institutional & Policy Environment
Several initiatives led by the GoL have created enabling institutional and policy environment for improved WASH services in Liberia. Over the years, the following has been achieved by joint initiatives of The GoL and its partners:
– The National Water and Sanitation Resources Board has been constituted
– WASH Policies (SSP, SIP, The Liberia WASH Compact, CDP) developed
– Technical Guidelines developed for WASH services
– National coordination units (NWSHPC & NTCU) formed
Recommendation to the National Legislature of Liberia
WaterAid on behalf of international organizations in Liberia recommend that The National Legislature initiate the following:
- Constitute and pass into law a bill for a WASH Commission in Liberia to plan and regulate WASH services
- Institute a legislative committee on WASH to perform sector oversight functions.
- Domesticate the Sharn-El-Shiek and E-Thekweni commitments to water and sanitation which will ensure adequate budgeting for water and sanitation
Let me conclude with a quote for the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-mood, at the 3rd Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) High Level Meeting (HLM) held in Washington DC. in April 2014.
“Achieving sanitation and water for all may not be cost-free – but it will set people free. Access to sanitation and water means a child free of disease, a woman free of the back-breaking chore to fetch water, a girl free to attend school without fear, a village free of cholera, and a world of greater equality and dignity for all.”