Massa F. Kanneh-Dorley
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says clean pipe water has returned to the country’s capital through the partial rehabilitation of the White Plains water treatment plant but reality in many urban communities paints a gloomy picture, as residents of Logan Town, Bong Mines Bridge and other areas are fetching water from filthy wells for household use.
President Johnson-Sirleaf, in her State of the Nation Address, said statistics from the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) shows that four million gallons are being pumped daily to Monrovia and its environs.
“Clean pipe-water has returned to the capital city through the partial rehabilitation of the White Plains Water Treatment facility, which currently pumps 4 million gallons a day to Monrovia and its environs. In addition, we have also built more than 400 new water kiosks around Monrovia,” she said.
“Together, these initiatives provide 600,000 people with access to clean water. Rehabilitation of the entire White Plains Water Treatment plant and the 36-inch Treated Water Transmission Pipeline is underway and once completed, will provide, within a year, access to 1.1 million people in and around Monrovia,” the President added.
Liberians who bear the brunt of drinking water from dirty wells in their communities have questioned the government’s statistics as revealed by President Jonson-Sirleaf on grounds that they still face difficulties in getting safe drinking water and water for other home chores.
In Ballah Town community on the Bushrod Island, most residents have to wake up early in the morning each day to stand in long queues to wait for their turn to draw water from a well. Frustratingly, the water that is drawn has to go through a local filtration process in order to be ready for cooking and washing.
For drinking, some residents have accepted the choice of buying mineral water by sacks rather than going to buy the ‘off-and-on’ pipe water that is being made available by the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC).
Assata Dukuly, a resident of Logan Town on the Bushrod Island told the Capitol Times Newspaper that she has been going through this process for more the two years.
For each year, especially during the rainy season, she said their source of water gets murky and dirty. During the dry season, the water wells around the community run dry, including the LWSC water lines.
“This is what we do, as you can see, we have to draw the water and filter it or else you won’t be able to use it, not to even wash your clothes or cook,” Assata said.
Latest WHO-UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) for Water Supply and Sanitation statistics shows that Liberia did not meet her targeted goal for the MDGs in providing safe drinking water but it made a good progress unlike sanitation.
Statistics provided by the JMP assessment report shows that from 2000 to 2015 Liberia scored 75.6 percent nationwide in improved drinking water for the country.
For sanitation, the report shows that the government achieved 16.9 percent of its goal for the MDGs.
JMP indicated that globally MDG target for drinking water was met in 2010 and 91 percent of the global population now uses an improved drinking water target. And five developing regions met the drinking water target, but the Caucasus and Central Asia, Northern Africa, Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa did not.
Eight out of ten people still without improved drinking water sources live in rural areas.
Sub-Saharan Africa fell short of the MDG target but still achieved a 20 percentage point increase in the use of improved sources of drinking water. This means 427 million people gained access during the MDG period, an average of 47,000 people per day for 25 years.
The least developed countries have faced the greatest challenges in meeting the MDG target, given low cover and high population growth. Half of these are classified by the World Bank as ‘fragile situations, and many have been affected by conflict during the MDG period, but have nevertheless made progress.
Between 1990 and 2015, the proportion of people in least developed countries using improved drinking water sources increased from 51 per cent to 69 per cent, but use of piped water on premises only increased from 7 per cent to 12 per cent.
Furthermore, previous report by the group states that over 60% of all illnesses in Liberian are caused by or linked to poor water, inadequate sanitation and improper hygiene. The document disclosed that over half of all hospital beds in the country are filled by people suffering from diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene. Additionally, the group says that schoolchildren in Liberia lost an average of 40 school days each year due to diseases related or caused by the lack of improvements in these critical areas.
In fact, it is believed that nearly 3 out of every 5 deaths among children under the age of 5 years are due to diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Likewise, more than half of school-age girls who drop out of school do so because of the absence of a suitable toilet and availability of safe water.
Improved water supply in Liberia will reduce diarrhea morbidity by 21%; while improved sanitation facilities will reduce diarrhea morbidity by 37.5%.
According to the World Bank, the lack of safe water, adequate sanitation and proper hygiene, account for more than 5% of GDP lost in Liberia every year. The Bank also estimates that for every $1 USD the Liberian Government spent on water, sanitation and hygiene, the country is bound to generate at least $10 USD in increased economic opportunity and productivity.
This suggests that attaining widespread utilization of safe drinking water, adequate sanitation facilities and proper hygiene is beneficial to the development, growth and economic expansion of Liberia.