4 February 2013

Liberia: Govt. Prepares for Major Decision in WASH Sector - Holds Two Events This Week

Public Works Minister Samuel Kofi Woods last week told fellow African Ministers with oversight on water, sanitation hygiene (WASH) that it was "time to act" in creating a better WASH environment on the continent, and his Ministry will this week lead the initiative in his native Liberia, where the state of affairs is no better.

The Ministry of Public Works over the weekend disclosed that the Government of Liberia will host two important events in the WASH sector, aimed at solving some of the many challenges the sector faces which have devastating effects on the population.

The two events include the 'First Annual WASH Joint Sector Review' and the Launch of the 'Sector Investment and Capacity Development Plans'. The events will run from February 5 to 6, 2013 at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Stadium in Paynesville, outside Monrovia.

The Review will provide a two-day forum for stakeholders to present and discuss the progress made against the sector goals as set forth in the WASH Sector Strategic Plan 2012-2017.

Participants and stakeholders will work to analyze the sector in detail -achievements, challenges, lessons learnt, and current gaps - in order to prioritize activities for 2013 and beyond.

The launch will highlight the release of two important WASH documents - the Sector Investment Plan (SIP) and Capacity Development (CD) Plan - and will include a summary of sector progress from the Review.

Developed with the support of the World Bank, UNICEF, and other development partners, the SIP and CD Plan will guide Liberia towards its WASH goals, as laid out in key policy documents, the Ministry said in a statement.

The Government of Liberia is represented by the Ministries of Public Works; Lands, Mines & Energy; Health & Social Welfare and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation and other relevant ministries and agencies from both national and county levels. Representatives from local and international NGOs, donor agencies, civil society organization and the private sector are expected to attend the events.

Both of these events directly respond to commitments made by the Government of Liberia in key policy documents - the Sector Strategic Plan 2012-2017 and the WASH Compact, the landmark document, signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, that aligns the principles of the Sanitation and Water For All global framework for action with those of Liberia, the statement said.

The events will bring attention to the WASH sector and its importance to the development of Liberia.

A World Bank study report that Liberia loses US$17.5 million each year due to poor sanitation and this amount is equivalent of US$4.9 per person in Liberia or 2.0 per year or 2.0% of GDP.

About 1.2 million Liberians, the 2011 report said use unsanitary or shared latrines; 1.7 million have no latrine at all and defecate in the open. The poorest quintile is almost 7 times more likely to practice open defecation than the richest.

The report notes that open defecation costs Liberia US$11 million - yet eliminating the practice would require less than 350,000 latrines to be built and used.

Each person practicing open defecation spend almost 2.5 days a year finding a private location to defecate leading to large economic losses. This cost falls disproportionately on women as care givers who may spend additional time accompanying young children or sick or elderly relatives.

Approximately 3,000 Liberians, including 1,800 children under 5, die each year from diarrhea- nearly 90% of which is directly attributed to poor conditions of WASH.

The World Bank Water and sanitation program (WSP) 2011 water point mapping report indicated that 60% of Liberians cannot access a sustainable safe water supply, while a WHO report attributes unclean water, unsafe feaces disposal and poor hygiene to the cause of 88% of all diarrhea breakout and brands diarrhea as one of the leading causes of death in Liberia.

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