LIBERIA: World Water Day Celebrated

By: WASH Reporters & Editors Network-Liberia – Liberia has joined other Countries around the world in observance of the celebration marking World Water Day.

On Thursday, March 22, the Civil Society Organizations WASH Working Group including residents from various slum communities and students from several schools in Monrovia and its environs paraded the principles streets of the City as part of World Water Day celebration.

The day started with a parade and that participants were seem carrying various placards with some inscriptions: “Water is a Right”, “Give Us Safe Drinking Water”, “We Are Hungry Because of Thirst”, “Water is Life, Sanitation is Dignity”, “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Must be a Priority by Government” and so on as they sang under the hot sunny day with all of them in white T-shirts.

The parade actually started from the B.W. Harris Episcopal School on Broad Street at 8 in the morning and ended at the Seat of the Country’s National Legislature on Capitol Hill, where a Position Statement was presented to Members of that August Body as it relates to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) conditions of Liberians.

The Group’s Statement was read by the President of the Slum Dwellers’ Association of Liberia, Bestman Toe, who is also a resident of one of the many slum communities in Monrovia, “Clara Town” on Bushrod Island.

The Liberia Civil Society Organizations WASH Working Group Position Statement called on the Liberian Government, Development Partners, the National Legislature as well as the communities to ensure the improvement of the WASH Sector of Liberia.

In its fifteen count recommendations, the Group called on Government to set up the Water Supply and Sanitation Commission including the National Water Resources and Sanitation Board, establish a separate Budget Line for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) in the national budget.

The WASH Position Statement also called on National Government to ensure schools have safe water and toilets for privacy of girls, accessibility for people living with disabilities and provide the needed infrastructure for hard-to-reach communities to access basic services as primary health care, improved sanitation services and access to safe water.

The Liberia WASH CSOs Working Group further called on Liberia’s development partners to support the Government and Civil Society efforts in transitioning from emergency to development approach aimed at providing water and sanitation services which will enhance local ownership and sustainability as well as to ensure better targeting performance of funding support to the sector is in line with the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRS-2).

However, the CSOs WASH Working Group recommended that a Legislative WASH Committee be set-up in both Houses (Senate and Representatives), review and enact into law the integrated Water Resource Management and the Water Supply and Sanitation Policies and to mandate the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC) to take emergency action to address the ongoing water shortage in the City which is compelling women and school going children to wake up as early as four in morning to fetch water.

The Group equally wants the National Legislature to ensure County Authorities and Social Development funds allocated for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) to show strong visibility and commitment to WASH.

Meanwhile, the CSOs WASH Working Group has called on the communities to take responsibility to maintain and manage their water source, embrace the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative as a measure of promoting safe sanitation and good health, protect their children, mainly girls from being victims of lack of safe water and to hold their Government accountable for the provision of services including water and sanitation.

The Statement was later presented by Mr. Samuel Pieh, Liberia WASH Consortium Coordinator, to two of the Law Makers (Signatories of the WASH Pledge Card), Montserrado County District Eight and Two Representatives, Munah Pelnah and Solomon George whose Districts fall within the slum communities.

Mr. Pieh in brief remarks urged the National Legislature to give the Group’s recommendations due consideration.

Receiving the Petition, Representative George reiterated their commitment for WASH, and promised that it will be shared with their colleagues for consideration.

Currently, only twenty-five percent of the population in Liberia have access to safe water and less than ten percent to improve sanitation and hygiene services, according to statistics from the Government of Liberia and Development Partners.

The statistics has revealed that women and girls of school age suffer most as they bear the burden of collecting water and suffer from lack of privacy in open defecation, thus making them vulnerable to rape and other forms of violence putting their health at risk.

The data further highlights that children have to walk long distances to fetch water and as such cannot do well in school which creates a viscous circle of poverty and frustratingly,  financial resources allocated to water, sanitation and hygiene are inadequate and they are not targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable groups in Liberia.

This year’s world Water Day was celebrated under the theme: “Water and Food Security”.

Several activities were also held in Monrovia, Liberia, as part of the celebration marking World Water Day beginning with the “official opening of the Central Offices of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia on Monday, March 19, 2012”, “a WASH Media Interactive Conference with Public Works Minister, Samuel Kofi Woods and other WASH Partners from Liberia and Sierra Leone on Tuesday, March 20, 2012”, “a One day Orientation Workshop for Members of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network-Liberia on Tuesday, March 20, 2012”, and “a 2-day Inter-Ministerial WASH Conference chaired by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf on March 21-22, 2012” respectively.