President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has criticized the fragmented character of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector in the country, which is yet to have much impact on the Liberian public since the end of the civil war in 2003.
The lack of coordination among partners, donors and their intervention in the WASH sector is hampering achievements or making it difficult to achieve tangible results, she said.
“The water sector is too fragmented and this makes it very difficult to deliver the kinds of services that are required for the people who so urgently need it. We must find ways now to come together to achieve this goal,” President Sirleaf stressed.
She made the statement when she chaired the first National Water Resources and Sanitation Board Meeting held on Monday at her Foreign Ministry office.
President Sirleaf, who chairs the National Water Resource and Sanitation Board (NWRSB), frowned on the many different actors doing separate interventions in a fragmented manner.
Despite many stakeholders that are involved in the WASH sector, Liberians across the country, especially rural communities, are yet to have access to safe drinking water. She further observed that poor hygiene is still prevalent despite several years of private and public sector “investments.”
There are several rural communities that are in dire need of WASH services, but one of significant note is Malangai, a small remote farming community of about 1000 residents in Zota District, Bong County.
Residents of Malangai, just a stone’s throw from the Guinean border, fetch water from a brownish color looking pond for drinking and other domestic use. They have been doing this for over fifty years, according to Town Chief Victor Juah.
Water related diseases are common experiences among residents of the town, resulting into many deaths.
Malangai is not alone in this catastrophic situation. Many Liberians in other parts, including Monrovia, are yet to benefit from millions of dollars being pumped into water projects across the country, from local and international NGOs.
This terrible situation continues to put the country at risk because there could be a major outbreak at any time of cholera, diarrhea and other water-borne and related diseases.
WASH services are yet to be implemented in schools across the country, though the outbreak of EVD has taught numerous unforgettable lessons.
President Sirleaf, at the meeting, stressed the need for effective collaboration, coordination and cooperation among WASH stakeholders to help curtail the visible fragmentation in the sector.
She challenged the WASH actors to consolidate their individual efforts in a holistic way to achieve the goal of delivering WASH services to Liberian communities.
She, however, commended the various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and donor partners in the sector for complementing Government’s efforts to provide water, sanitation and hygiene services to the Liberian people.
In an effort to bring governance, structure and system to the country’s WASH sector, the government and partners have given the newly constituted Board the authority to ensure several worthwhile initiatives are undertaken.
Some of these initiatives include developing and endorsing the national work plan; proposing an institutional framework for the establishment of an independent entity; and engaging the WASH donor groups.
The Assistant Minister for Community Services at the Ministry of Public Works, George W.K. Yarngo, recommended the establishment of an institutional framework in which all activities within the WASH sector can be centralized and consolidated under one entity.
Minister Yarngo, who heads Liberia’s WASH Secretariat, also proffered a number of other recommendations.
The NWRS Board includes the Ministers of Lands, Mines and Energy, Public Works, Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection, Agriculture, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Development Planning, and Education.
Others are the Chairman of the Governance Commission, Managing Director of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, the Country Representative of UNICEF-Liberia, the African Development Bank, USAID – Liberia WASH Consortium, Global Communities, WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone, the World Bank, and the Chief of WASH Liberia.
The rest are, Mr. Mattheu Sulon, Mr. Abdul Koroma, Ms. Christiana N’tow, Martin Blayon, and John Kumeh.