Liberia: WaterAid Transforms Living Standard of Citizens

Adds Value To Beauty, Restores Hope In River GeeBy: Augustine N. Myers – As the saying goes that everything has time, this has been manifested in the lives of thousands of citizens almost forgotten in River Gee.

The citizens have for the very first time, received modern hand pumps and latrines, as part of efforts to ensure a healthy environment and to enhance growth and development of a County created during the administration of former President Taylor, and yet to enjoy their entitled social benefits.

WaterAid-Liberia has swiftly moved in to address the alarming situation, especially in two remote populated towns, Jaytoken and Nyonken, in River Gee County, Southeastern Liberia, amidst prevalence of water-related diseases reported in the areas.

The intervention of WaterAid-Liberia has indeed restored the hope of thousands of the people, and has equally added value to beauty. The Project for the construction of the hand pumps and latrines truly transforms the living standard of the River Gee citizens.

The Water and Environmental Sanitation Project (WES) is implemented on behalf of WaterAid by New Era, a local NGO operating in River Gee County. Similar project is also being implemented in Chenboken, River Gee County.

Jaytoken and Nyonken have over the years lacked basic social services, including safe water, latrines, health centers and roads, respectively.

The intervention of WaterAid aimed at addressing the water and sanitation problems of the two communities, is been considered by the citizens and residents as a very great relief and a life -saving gesture worthy of emulation by other organizations and institutions.

The people of both communities could not hold back their gratitude to WaterAid for what they consider a dream come true, to especially have safe water for the first time ever in the existence of their respective communities.

For Jaytoken, since it was established in 1977, the citizens have struggled to have adequate WASH facilities, something they said had equally hindered the development of the community.

Jaytoken Town Chief, Adada P. Saydee, said prior to the construction of the hand pumps, the only source of water was the creek which they used for drinking, cooking, washing and bathing.

Chief Saydee alleged that they often got sick from diarrhea, especially the children as the result of the creek water considered very unsafe.

He also told this paper that the constant running stomach resulting from unsafe drinking water, there are always reported cases of deaths. He however blamed the situation to the lack of health facilities since the town was founded.

Chief Saydee reported that they always seek medication in Kaweaken or Fish Town, 3-4 hours walk from Jaytoken.

According to him, due to the long distances, some of the patients die en-route to the clinic.
He commanded WaterAid for the pump and latrine facilities, and assured that all will be done to maintain them for the benefit the community.

A 4th Grade student of the Jaytoken Elementary School was the latest victim who survived a snake bite and survived by the grace of God, while trying to use the nearby bush as a latrine, due to the lack of one on the school campus.

The public school which was constructed by the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), is still under construction for three years now, though LACE authority has promised to complete the project, but failed to say when.

Student Gertrude Quaye said that when she was bitten by the snake, she was rushed to a traditional native doctor who extracted the poison from her leg. She commanded WaterAid for the construction of the hand pump and latrine facilities, which now provide an opportunity for them to remain on the school campus.

For Nyonken, “Town on the Hill”, since it was established in the 1800s, this is the very first time it has benefited from safe drinking water. The town is believed to be the oldest town in Tienpo Statutory District, River gee County.

Nyonken Town Chief, Philip Dweh said they used to walk about 15 minutes down the tall hill in search of water. According to him, women and children often fall and get injured while en-rout or coming from the river, because of the slipperiness and distance of the hill on which the town is situated.

Chief Dweh alleged that about 50 persons die annually due to water-related diseases, especially severe running stomach. He also said because the town had been inaccessible, and that they had to walk through the bushes for two to three hours before reaching Kaweaken for medical attention, due to the lack of health center or drugs in the town, they were always victims of circumstances.

According to him, patients even die before reaching Kaweaken. “We were just living here by ourselves, and by the mercy of God”, Old man Chief pitifully told this paper Sunday in Nyonken, River Gee during the dedicatory ceremony of the hand pumps by WaterAid team visiting the area and to get acquainted with the plight of the people.

He expressed gratitude to WaterAid and its implementing partner, New era for the construction of the hand pumps, and said it will go a long way in saving them from pre-mature deaths. “Now, we have good water, we will not just get running stomach and die plenty”, the Nyonken Town chief pointed out.

According to him, last year 2010, 50 persons lost their lives due to the lack of safe drinking water. He said they are hopeful that now the town has about four hand pumps, the water-related diseases will be reduced, if not gone away for good.

The entire town went into jubilation when the Town Crier announced that the pumps were now dedicated and ready, and that everyone could go and fetch safe water for cooking, drinking and bathing, or even for washing.

Jubilant citizens and residents, including men, women, children and the elderly were seen dancing with buckets, tubs, gallons and other containers to the various designated hand pumps of their choice. They just could not stop singing songs of praises to God for the blessing, and to WaterAid for the opportunity provided.

WaterAid has also constructed a modern latrine in Nyonken for use by the community school constructed on a self-help basis.

WaterAid transforms lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities. It works with partners and influence decision-makers to maximize its impact.

The Organization came to Liberia in 2009, and is presently operating in River Gee, Maryland and Grand Kru Counties in the execution of a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Project.

About 7-9 hand pumps, and other institutional latrines were constructed in the two communities, “Jaytoken and Nyonken” with a population of about three thousand inhabitants. Another community, “Chenboken” is benefiting from similar assistance from WaterAid, bringing to 3, the communities in River Gee.

The project is closely valued at One Hundred Thousand United States dollars.

The Team that carried out the assessment of the WaterAid-Liberia Project, and dedication of the water and latrine facilities include; Ann Noon, Media Relations Manager of WaterAid-London, and Josiah Wiah, Administrative & Logistics Support Officer of WaterAid-Liberia.

Others include: Rose George, an International freelance Journalist & British Author, and Aubrey Wade, an International Photographer. Augustine Myers, Chairman of the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia, also witnessed the level of transformation taking place in River Gee.