….Need For Access To Safe Water, Hygiene and Sanitation – By: Augustine N. Myers – The WASH Media Network known as the “WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia”, has completed a week-long intensive assessment visit to the Liberian-Ivorian boarder in Nimba County. The visit was intended to assess the water, sanitation and hygiene issues of especially Ivoirian refugees crossing into Liberia through Nimba County, and those already residing in the various towns and villages in Nimba County.
According to the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia, areas visited by its team of professional media practitioners include; Logoatuo, Buutuo, Kissayplay, Daoplay, Kenlay, Zianlay, Duoplay, Gbanplay, Younlay, Yeahplay, Karmplay, and Bahn.
Others are; Zorgowee, Goagortuo, Seytontuo, Zortopa, Kpolay, Zualay, Nyantuo, Dulay, and Kentorkporglay.
All of the towns visited have a huge population between two to nine thousand persons including Ivoirian refugees, some of whom have already been integrated into the various communities, while others are transferred to Karmplay considered a transit camp and to Bahn which is the main camp hosting thousands of the refugees.
The assessment by the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia observed the need for more hand pump and latrine facilities, and to ensure improved hygiene for the refugees, including community residents.
The Ivoirian refugees and their Liberian host communities complained of the lack of access to save water, “especially for drinking”, sanitation and hygiene.
For instance in Kentorkporglay, one of the Liberian-Ivorian border towns in Nimba County in Liberia, a group of the refugees and residents (men and women) of the town were seen bathing in the same river, while others were washing on the other side and others, including children were fetching water for cooking and drinking.
Some were also seen openly drinking from the river and other unsaved water sources. Others were carrying out open defecation along riversides and bushes. Unsanitary conditions were also observed as the refugees and community residents blamed such on the over crowdedness due to the huge influx of fleeing Ivoirians and those they met on the ground.
During the week-long assessment visit, the refugees and Community residents were seen tracking long distances to creeks in search of water, and caring out the practice of open defecation due to the shortage of save water and latrine facilities to accommodate the huge population.
Some of the towns or communities have between two to eight hand pumps, while latrines are between four to twenty for a population between two to nine thousand residents and refugees.
This contradicts the standard set by the Liberian Government and partners apportioning one hand pump or save water point to at least 250 persons in every community.
Some of the hand pump and latrine facilities constructed by NGOs operating in the County are not being used because they are either damaged, or cannot produce saved drinking water due to the present dry season.
The assessment visit was facilitated by the Liberia Media Empowerment & Advocacy Foundation (LIMEAF Inc.), which is paying host to the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia.
The WASH R&E was recently launched in Monrovia which necessitated the assessment visit to Nimba County to get first hand information on the water, sanitation and hygiene status of Ivoirian refugees in that part of the Country.
The launch of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia now paves the way for the full commencement of the Network’s operations and activities across the Country.
The Network has planned similar visits to Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties, “all the Liberian-Ivoirian border”, to also assess the WASH conditions of the refugees at the Liberia-Ivorian boarder.
The WASH Reporters & Editors Network which comprises reporters and editors within the media landscape of Liberia, says it remains fully cognizant of the urgent need to attract robust media attention on issues promoting water, sanitation and hygiene, and to inform, educate and entertain the public for the aggressive need to ensure active media participation and involvement in the WASH Sector through increased media coverage and reportage throughout Liberia.