25 September 2013

Liberia: Construct Public Toilets

Liberia is still entangled with multiple problems, some of which are excretes of the war that rumbled for years and brought it (country ) to its knees, and some of which are mere show of unwillingness on the part of policy-makers to act when necessary. Thanks, first, to the international community for taking keen interest in restoring peace and sanity, and, second, to belligerent parties for accepting to lay down their guns for the sake of peace. Today, in spite of modicums of contentions - they are good for the enhancement of democracy - Liberia is certainly reaping the antecedences of peace, with the credit also going to the government empowered by the people through their votes to oversee the affairs of the state and cater to their social, economic and political wellbeing.

While it is obligatory upon us to recognize the exerted and devoted efforts made thus far in getting Liberia out of the sludge, it is equally and most importantly significant to pinpoint the issues that continue to defy and threaten the existence of ordinary Liberians, who do not have the means, at this time, to fend for themselves and are therefore left with the choice of getting it done anyhow and anyway, aware of but not care about consequences.

There are lots of issues that need urgent attention as Liberia moves toward another century of its existence; but the most pricking, in our view, is the troubling issue of public toilets. In as much as it may seem insignificant to others, especially policy-makers, because it ties to so many things the nation seeks to erect as it progresses steadily.

There is no invincible argument that public toilet provision is an issue of rights, an issue of public health protection, an issue of politics and an issue of giving people opportunity to happiness and freedom from some of nature's excesses. And this why nations of the world, cities of the world are leaving no stones unturned in designing, planning and erecting public toilet facilities, not only for the beautification of cities, but freedom and safety of citizens.

Comparative analysis of public toilets provision carried on by the University of Toronto, Canada in June of this year, clearly defined why governments should give premium attention to the provision of public toilets.

Amongst other salient issues, the research work identified the harmful impact of inadequate public toilets perhaps is felt most profoundly by people with disabilities, as lack of accessible public toilets can prevent people with disabilities from taking part in everyday activities that others take for granted

"Without suitable public toilets, many disabled people and their families are able to make only short trips or are forced to remain housebound. Many caregivers risk their health and safety by changing a disabled person on a public toilet floor," it is discovered.

"Isolation and fear of leaving home due to lack of accessible public toilets are two of the most common and distressing consequences experienced by people with disabilities. The fear of having an accident in public can have a devastating effect on a disabled person's ability to undertake everyday activities such as going to work, shopping, or socializing, and a lack of adequate facilities at " bus and train stations and on board trains excludes many people with disabilities from using public transportation ."

Lack of accessible public toilets not only restricts a disabled person's independence and lifestyle, but can have negative consequences for her/his health. A person might stop going to the doctor or picking up medication from the pharmacy, or possibly even stop buying fresh food from a supermarket. Critically, many people will stop drinking water if they know they need to be out in public to prevent the need to use public toilets.

Besides its impact on people with disabilities, public toilets are equally tied to socialization because it allows people to get out freely and attend to nature when pressed.

Here in Liberia, lack of public toilets has become a contentious issue, as the fewer ones cannot accommodate the growing population in Monrovia and its environs and due to lack of toilets in many homes as this is no room in government's policy to force people to build houses with bathrooms. Thus, there lies the crux of the urgency for the government to give attention to the provision of public toilets because 85% of houses in Monrovia and its environs lack toilet facilities.

Recently, WASH R&E reported that residents of two surfbirds of Monrovia have complained of the lack of public toilets in their communities. Jamaica Road and Belimah Communities of about 30 thousand residents are in desperate need of toilet facilities, and said that lack of public toilets were forcing people to defecate in open places, a situation that also poses health hazards, with some residents have resulted to the use of plastic bags, rubber buckets and nearby bushes, even the main streets at midnight for defecation.

We are of the conviction that one of the ways government can be a service to its citizens is through the provision of public toilets because by doing so, it would be eliminating possibilities that endanger their health and by extension their lives.

There is no gainsay that the issue of public toilet provision is an issue of rights as it is an issue of good health and sanitary condition.

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