... The project comes as access to clean drinking water remains a challenge, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, in 2019, only about 68% of the population had access to basic drinking water services.
Liberians living in rural Montserrado and Margibi Counties may have a reason to smile about a possible gradual end to unsafe drinking water and sanitation as USAID embarked on a US$18 million project to improve access to safe drinking water in the two counties.
The project comes as access to clean drinking water remains a challenge, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, in 2019, only about 68% of the population had access to basic drinking water services.
The situation is similar and according to the same UNICEF report, only about 18% of Liberians have access to adequate sanitation facilities. The project is expected to be implemented by Winrock International and FEI Consulting, LLC.
“What we are watching today will be more than just providing the communities the physical structure in order to ensure safe water access,” said U.S. Ambassador Michael Mccarthy.
“We will also focus on hygiene and long-term sustainability of our investments in water by addressing the challenges that have limited gains for previous investments,” he said.
McCarthy added that USAID will also work with people Montserrado and Margibi to design water service delivery modules. However, McCarthy in his remark, emphasized the need for shared responsibility and accountability among the beneficiary communities, the government, and the private sector.
“This public-private partnership is really inspiring. It seems to be a very fruitful approach,” McCarthy said. “ It is only by doing so that we can make the necessary corrections to improve the gains of our investment in the water sector.”
The US Ambassador added that from 2012 to 2017, USAID supported water and sanitation projects to eliminate open defecation and provided sanitation services, but the issue of shared responsibility impacts the project's sustainability.
McCarthy noted that as a part of the shared responsibility, the government is the one responsible to allocate funding for critical local services, including access to safe drinking water.
“Likewise, citizens and communities must take greater responsibilities to bear the shared cost associated with the enduring water access,” he said.
McCarthy has traveled across fifteen counties and has seen the dire sufferings and terrible conditions the people are faced with daily but expressed hope for a positive future.
Meanwhile, Jeff Goldberg, the Director of USAID/Washington Center for Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene, said that the lack of WASH increases diseases, undermines economic growth, and challenges security.
Goldberg said that America’s support to countries with no access to enough and quality safe drinking water is undiminishing, knowing that the impact of the lack of water in other parts of the world might have a trickle-down effect on America, too.
“One-third of the global population lacks safe drinking water; over half of the global population lacks sanitation and in a decade, nearly two-thirds of the world population may face water scarcity. We know that this will affect us to some extent too. That is why the Government of the United States is making investments in water security,” he said.
Goldberg noted that support for Liberia and other struggling countries is necessitated by legislation by Congress in both 2005 and 2014.
“We are particularly excited because the momentum has continued in the US. Our Vice President Kamala Harris last year launched a project for world water security, health, and prosperity. In the next five years, we are hoping to meet 22 million people across the countries selected.”
“We are working globally with thousands of water security institutions. We are focusing on governance and finance. We have spent a billion dollars over the last five years on WASH. Now we are dealing with 22 prioritized countries that need US assistance.”
Meanwhile, Bobby Whitfield, the Chairman of the Water Sanitation and Hygiene Commission (WASH-Commission) said the George Weah-led government will jealously protect the project and ensure the right things are done.
Whitfield noted that the Liberian government needs US$151 million from now to 2030 in order to address holistically across the country the scarcity of safe drinking water but there is not enough funding coming for the sector.
“They have been very engaging. Congratulations to Winrock for winning the bid that awarded them this contract. We as a government are very aware of the challenges and the need to stretch the budget to other priority areas. Globally, WASH needs about US$141 Billion dollars if we are to achieve SDG 6.1 and SDG 6.2,” he noted.
For the local community women in Margibi, Nancy Saah spoke and she thanked the US Government for the support to the Liberian people, mainly in areas of critical concerns, such as access to safe drinking water.
“We, the women of Margibi say thank you plenty. We women use water plenty and if we don’t have clean and safe water, we don’t feel fine,” Saah said.
She noted that a number of children and even adults die from diarrhea due to lack of clean and safe water but with USAID’s funding of the project to be implemented by Winrock, there will be relief.