The Informer (Monrovia)

17 December 2012

Liberia: Lack of Safe Drinking Water Kills Over 3,000 Liberians Annually - Boakai Pledges Govt Commitment to WASH Sector

Over 3,000 Liberians are reportedly dying annually from unsafe drinking water and other water related diseases, though President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is Africa's Goodwill Ambassador for Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), but Vice President Joseph Boakai says the government remains committed to the sector.

Vice President Boakai told the National Television of Senegal over the weekend that the provision of safe drinking water and the creation of good sanitary environment remains a priority of the Government of Liberia.

He said though Liberia will not meet the Millennium Development Goal in this area the Government of Liberia has taken steps to make sure that this objective is achieved.

Speaking Friday in an interview with the National Television of Senegal in the Capitol Darkar at the close of the 2nd High Level Forum on Water and Sanitation for Africa held under the agies of the Government of Senegal and the Intergovernmental Agency of Africa, Boakai said Africa must look from within for the resolution of its problems instead of looking outside of the Continent.

In response to a question from newsmen of the Senegal National Television concerning the current political, economic, social, cultural and other realities, Vice Boakai said a lot of progress has been made in these sectors but confessed that a large number of Liberians do not have access to safe drinking water--something he said can be overcome.

The Liberian Civil Societies (CSOs) WASH Network recently revealed that about 3,000 Liberians, mostly women and children, die every year due to lack of safe drinking water, improved sanitation and Hygiene in the country.

The group said many people lost their lives to pandemic diseases that are caused as a result of the deficiency of these basic social services.

Residents of slum communities in the urban areas and rural communities are hugely affected by the absence of basic facilities, WASH survey revealed.

Speaking recently at the end of a two-day Media Workshop on the sector, the Chairman of the group Prince Kreplah said stakeholders in the WASH sector have continually ignored the threats that the country is faced with in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene.

He said if the lead players in the sector continue to overlook such statistics, the growing population and the human resources of the country will be adversely affected.

Mr. Kreplah has persistently criticized President Sirleaf of doing little or nothing as WASH Africa Goodwill Ambassador to salvage the poor state of the sector in the country least to stimulate other to follow her example.

The Liberia CSOs WASH Network last in November released a report damning the poor sanitation condition in 10 schools and 19 communities.

Kreplah claims that this was happening because President Sirleaf was doing very little to bring about the needed change.

Kreplah said President Sirleaf was not leading by example to stimulate the rest of Africa's leaders to bring WASH issues to the political table and include it into national budgets.

Thousands of Liberians on Nov 19 joined millions of people around the globe to observe World Toilet Day, with a strong petition calling on the Government of Liberia to attach serious consideration to addressing challenges in the WASH of sector of the country.

As of November 19, eight in ten women in Liberia have had no access to a safe toilet, threatening their health and exposing them to shame, fear and even violence. This means that on World Toilet Day, 1.6 million Liberian women were facing serious WASH-related health hazards, according to a report released by Water Aid Liberia the day before.

A petition statement to the President on World Toilet Day highlighted how 60% of the Liberian people do not have access to safe drinking water supply, how 90% of public schools in Monrovia do not have access to safe drinking water facilities, how the government has failed to decrease open defecation by at least 15%, and how it has yet to increase improved sanitation services by 7% among dozens of others promises to which it committed itself.

Among several demands, the petitioners requested that the President ensure that the "national budget has a clear and distinct budget line for water, sanitation and hygiene." On top of that, the requested that the government implement to the fullest by 2014 the joint statement of commitment from the sector ministries which pledged to decrease open defecation by at least 15%, improve water access by 5%, increase water and sanitation services to primary schools and health facilities by at least 10%, and increase WASH budget annually by at least 15% in real term.

The statement read by students Theresa Browne from the government-run Gabriel Kpolleh High school--a school among poor sanitary conditions--request President Sirleaf to sign an Executive Order to the WASH Commission as enshrined in the Liberia WASH compact which has been At the presidency for more than a year, establish a pool fund for the WASH sector, mandate the construction of water points and proper management of toilets in public schools, among others.

This year's World Toilet Day was celebrated under the global them: "Keep Your Promises" on safe drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene with a focus on Women's access to safe toilets. Lack of decent sanitation affects productivity and livelihoods. Women and girls living in Liberia without toilet facilities spend 165 million hours each year finding a place to go in the open, according to figures released by WaterAid.

Poor hygiene has serious implications on health. Every year, over a thousand Liberian mothers lose a child to diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of adequate sanitation and clean water.

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