Liberia: SHE-CAN Fellow Deborah Gonkpah Constructs Latrines for Gbartala Residents to Curtail Open Defecation

Gbartala — Deborah Gonkpah, a fellow of SHE-CAN, a United States-based non-profit organization that is building women's leadership in post-conflict countries, has constructed two pit latrines for residents of Gbartala in Bong County.

Valued at over US$ 600, the latrines will will serve over five hundred residents.

Speaking at the commissioning of the latrines, Gonkpah, a native of Gbartala, said her goal is to contribute to her community and reduce the burden of diarrhoea for people, including men, women, children and vulnerable people.

Gonkpah also said her decision to construct latrines for residents of Gbartala is to discourage the traditional and unhygienic practice of defecating in bushes or open fields.

She encouraged residents of Gbartala to wash their hands with soap before meals and after using the toilets, inorder to prevent diarrhoea and cholera.

Speaking on behalf of the community, Jerry Forkpa, said: "We used to defecate in the open , and when flies sit on our faeces and then sit on our food, we would often get sick with diarrhoea," he said.

"I want to appreciate our daughter Deborah Gonkpah for thinking about us. She lived here with us few years ago before going Monrovia to seek higher education. And for her to think about us by constructing these latrines is something that's worthy of commendations," he added.

Kollie admonished community members to be vigilant about maintaining the latrines to make them last.

"Deborah Gonkpah may not have money always to construct latrines for us so we have to take a better care of these latrines because it's for our own safety," he said.

According to the latest UNICEF and the World Health Organization, only 11 percent people in Liberia have access to adequate sanitation facility; in the rural areas - is just 5 percent. Only about half of the population - and less than a third in rural areas - have access to safe drinking water.

Such statistics helps to explain Liberia's enviable positions as one of the nations with the world's worst mortality rates for children under the age of five. And Gonkpah hopes that her intervention in Gbartala will lead the way in improving hygiene and survival rates.

SHE-CAN is a US-based non-profit that is building women's leadership in post-conflict countries. Rising leaders from Liberia, Rwanda, and Cambodia are selected and equipped with the tools needed to return home as change agents: a U.S. college education, mentorship, leadership training, and a wide network of valuable connections. Since 2011, SHE-CAN has helped 75 scholars win over $19 million in full-ride scholarships.

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