Liberia: Modernizing Hand Washing to Combat COVID-19 At Border Points


Bo Waterside - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Liberia through the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Commission has officially launched the installation of modernized foot operated hand washing station at border points, vowing to ensure compulsory compliance to hand hygiene practices at public places across the country.

The modernized foot-operated hand washing facility, which was produced by the Community Development Services (CODES), was erected in Bo Waterside, Grand Cape Mount County on Wednesday.

The Country Director of the IOM, Mr. Mohamed Cherif Diallo, observed that coronavirus is rapidly spreading across Liberia.

He said the facility will enable people abide by the health protocols and curb the spread of COVID-19.

Mr. Diallo suggested that steps should be taken to help ensure that citizens interact with one another and engage into commercial activities to provide for them and their respective families while following the health protocols.

"We have all been working together since March 16 to fight COVID-19. As we go down the line, we've realized that the virus is moving, and it is going to stay with us. So, as this virus is going to stay, we need to be prepared. We need to open our borders with our neighboring countries. We cannot continue to lock the country forever. So, as it reopens, we want to make sure that the virus is not transmitted," he said.

"As a partner to the government and as we work together, we want to hand over this equipment today to the WASH commission as part of the several pillars we have been supporting, including contact tracing".

Need To Protect Populace

Mr. Diallo further underscored the need for the protection of people travelling cross the border, adding that locals must be educated on the use of the WASH facility and the health protocols.

"We think that we need to protect our local population that moves. To protect them, we have to teach them and one of the safety measures is the washing tool. We want you to make sure to educate our sisters and mothers so that they can know how this virus is moving and the need to prevent it from spreading," he said.

He also challenged officers of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) and other government agencies to help guarantee the safety of the foot-operated hand washing station.

"I want to reiterate that we want this property to be taken care of. We don't want to wake up in the morning and start asking where do we get water? Everybody has to play their part including the LIS at this border entry and other important staff here," he said.

Also speaking, the Head of the National WASH Commission Bobby Whitfield recounted the numerous contributions the IOM has made toward Liberia's WASH sector.

"For the past couple of months, we've been working very productively with our partners. One of those partners that we can count or rely on is the IOM. The IOM has stood by us when coronavirus was still a rumor in China -- the IOM was helping us prepare. I recalled that the first set of buckets that were distributed at airport came from the IOM to the WASH commission," Whitfield said.

Play your part

Atty. Whitfield said despite the help from the IOM and other partners, it is now time that citizens play their part in preventing the spread of COVID-19.

He urged citizens and others to refrain from downplaying hand washing stations that would be setup at border points across the country in a bid to help prevent the spread of the pandemic, adding that security officers assigned at border points also have a role to play to ensure that citizens or travellers followed the health measures.

"We have to be our own eyes and ears to watch out. When people are coming in to overlook this facility, please direct them. Tell them it is a mandate from the President; we have reopened our airports and it's about time that we reopen our land borders," he said.

"The WASH Commission will insist the enforcement and compliance to hand washing in this country not just here at Bo Waterside, but all across the borders, in our communities, and schools. We are going to make sure that people start to change their behavior when it comes to hand hygiene.

"If we talk about development, hand washing is part of that process. We as government should provide the facilities so that you can have access and you can play your part by washing your hands".

For her part, the Deputy Commissioner for Operations of the LIS, Abigail Wesseh promised to ensure the protection of the hand washing equipment, while calling on Liberians to follow the hand washing protocol.

The modernized hand washing equipment, which serves two persons at a time, stores used water in a separate bucket, and discourages the usage of using hands to turn on or close a faucet for water to pull on a person hands

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