Duala General Market, second in size to Red Light Market, is engulfed by a lengthy pile of foul-smelling, fly infested garbage that poses a sanitation hazard to the hundreds of petty traders and their customers every day.
Also at high risk of a looming health disaster from this appalling dump, which stretches along the roadside and spans the entire market front, are thousands of residents, schools, health facilities, businesses and the like that share space in this highly populated area not far from the St. Paul River.
Commuters must pass through Duala, which is the thoroughfare connecting downtown Monrovia with Brewerville and other settlements along the St. Paul River, as well as several counties, including Bomi, Gbapolu and Cape Mount, going towards the border with Sierra Leone.
One cannot miss the pileup, mainly because of the unsightly debris and horrible stench.
Coming to or from Monrovia as you approach Duala Market you have to ‘hold your nose and pass’ unless you are securely sheltered in an air conditioned vehicle.
Clogged drains, sewer spills and more garbage are everywhere in this community located on the edge of a stretch of swampland.
Crisscrossing this large community, dirty algae-covered-water stagnates in the chaotic, zone-less spans of dwellings, with their outside latrines, makeshift churches, schools, bars and petty businesses of all kinds.
The entire area is a haven for insects and rodents bearing bad tidings of dangerous diseases such as malaria, typhoid, cholera and yes, even Ebola, which could break out at any time.
During a midday tour of the Duala General Market last week, it appeared that piles of garbage lining the side of the road in front of market stalls had not been collected for a while by the contracted sanitation company.
Most of the garbage receptacles placed there were already filled to capacity and are surrounded by the overflowing garbage strewn along the roadside.
During the tour this reporter observed the facial expressions of marketers, customers and residents of the area clearly displaying their anger, frustration and disgust.
The produce being sold nearest the road are displayed on the ground, with flies congregating over them – a turn off for most customers.
Some of those approached about the horrible condition of the marketplace were very angry, to the extent that they began raining insults on the various ministries and agencies responsible for the upkeep of Monrovia and its environs.
Many of them want the government and its partners in the sanitation sector to redesign the strategy for garbage collection and disposal in Monrovia and throughout the country.
They identified some of the ministries and agencies that have statutory responsibilities for keeping the cities clean as the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC), Ministry of Public Works (MPW), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and especially the city municipalities.
While touring the Duala area, several top government officials and affluent residents were seen speeding by in their air conditioned vehicles, trying to avoid the unsightly garbage and offensive odor.
Commuters were overheard expressing shock and consternation (alarm, worry) over the incredible accumulation of garbage along the roadside.
In several interviews with the Daily Observer, marketers stressed the urgent need for timely collection and disposal of garbage at strategic points around the Duala business center.
Madam Hanful Meata Dukuly, 35, told the Daily Observer in an angry tone that she has to sell in the midst of the stench and squalor because she has no other choice.
Madam Dukuly was so angry she vowed that if necessary “she will marry among the trash since the Liberian government cannot take swift action to clean the decaying garbage at the market.”
Imported used shoe dealer Moses G. Garnawah said the sanitation company contracted to collect and dispose of the garbage has not been performing to the expectation of businesspeople and residents of the area.
“In my view, this sanitation company has performed below standard and its contract should be terminated immediately,” Mr. Garnawah insisted.
Cassava Dealer Susan Berry White, 55, who sells her produce a few yards from the garbage, complained that her customers are shying away from buying her cassava due to the filthy condition of the Duala Market area.
“I continue to suffer losses because of the slow rate of cassava buyers at Duala Market for the past five months,” Madam White lamented.
When contacted about the abysmal (terrible, bad) condition of Duala Market, an official of the Monrovia City Corporation’s (MCC) Sanitation Department only told our reporter that collecting garbage from Monrovia is carried out at different times during the week.
Meanwhile, some major businesspeople in the area who spoke to this reporter advised the relevant ministries and agencies responsible for sanitation and environment to rescue the Duala General Market and the surrounding communities from an impending health crisis by regularly collecting and disposing the garbage.