7 February 2013

Liberia: Water Crisis Starts Again - Stephen Tolbert Community Cries Out


Residents of the Stephen A. Tolbert Estate and nearby communities in Gardnersville are complaining of difficulties they are experiencing in getting safe water during the current dry season.

Every year tens of thousands of residents in crowded Monrovia and its environs face serious water crises, as the government still struggles to provide pipe borne water for its citizens after years of devastating civil war.

Residents in both the government-owned housing estate and surrounding communities said wells and hand pumps in the area are not sufficient for the huge population, and are getting dry as a result of the sunny season.

They lamented that getting water for drinking, cooking, washing and for other domestic purposes is becoming quite difficult by the day.

The citizens appealed to government and other local and international NGOs to help solve their problem by constructing additional hand pumps and wells, if the situation should not reach a crisis level.

Stephen A. Tolbert Estate, built in the 70s, is one of the most populated communities in Montserrado District #12. Thousands of residents crowd wetlands on the fringes of the Estate, and often depend on wells and hand pumps with in the packed Estate to get safe drinking water.

According to residents who spoke to this writer, the situation is becoming chaotic as those living on the Estate are blaming their colleagues from outside for helping to "finish" their water.

Residents form long queues at wells and pumps daily to fetch water, a situation said to be very frustrating.

Rita Doe, one of those living outside the Estate, confirmed that they end up going in the Estate to get water for their daily use, lamenting, "that before a person gets a bucket of water, about fifteen persons will finish before you get another bucket of water."

Another resident only identified as Kollie disclosed that during the 2011 Presidential and General elections campaign, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf donated a concrete hand pump (or water Kiosk) with two pumps on both sides for residents behind the Estate to get water through the Liberia Water and Sewer supply system.

Unfortunately, he said, the pump had been down for the past one year and needs to be repaired to salvage the situation they are faced with.

Meanwhile, residents of Stephen Tolbert are complaining that they are facing problems in getting water from their own wells in the estate, blaming those in surrounding communities for the situation. But those outside the Estate argue that their place is not conducive to build pumps because of the swampy and muddy nature of the soil. "Each time we try to build a decent well there, our effort goes in vain because the water becomes white as chalk," one resident complained.

Besides directly calling on the government and NGOs, citizens on the fringes of the Estate are calling on the newly elected officials of the Stephen Tolbert Estate to try and help them address the problem as they, too, took part in the December 29, 2012 election that was conducted in the Estate.

They said they want the new leadership find a conducive or suitable spot in the Estate to construct a hand pump to reduce the hard time they go through before getting a bucket of water.

Provision of safe drinking water remains one of the challenges in Liberia, even after one decade of peace and stability since the war ended in 2003. Many part of the capital Monrovia is yet to taste pipe borne water for at least three decades.

Statistics shows that 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). Vice President Joseph Boakai says the government remains committed to the sector.

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

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, like those in Gardnersville, are hugely affected by the absence of basic facilities, WASH survey revealed.

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