Residents of Monrovia, Environs Scramble for Water as the City Infrastructure falters

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Push-push heading to central Monrovia.

Water shortage has hit Liberia’s crowded capital Monrovia amid poor infrastructure that the government struggles with to meet the growing demand.  The shortage comes as the dry season reaches its height with wells drying the city. Now, residents of the city’s far-flung suburbs, often first to feel the effects of water shortages, are demand action.

Monrovia- It is hot, and the waves of heat are visible. In this suburb, 40-year-old Famatta Ziah pushes a wheelbarrow full of empty plastic gallons. She’s heard there’s a well that still has water 20 minutes from where she stands.

Famatta is not alone. In Clara Town of estimated 2,000 households, other residents walk with buckets in search of water.  The Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation (LWSC) that should supply water for these urban dwellers does not have the capacity to supply the numerous residents of Monrovia because most of its water pipes have damaged and become dysfunctional.

“We are suffering. When you wake up, you start to inquire about where you should go to get water. When you get a bucket, you must use it sparingly because it is hard to get,” says Famatta.

“I was told that there is water nearby. However, it is only accessible for users who can afford a fee of 25 Liberian Dollars for a 20-liter gallon (below five-cent). In some cases, where you find a pump it’s 50 LD charged and 20 LD. The fee is based on the container you are carrying for water,” says Famatta.

Famatta is not working and is depending on petty trade. The Liberia Water and Sewer is the government’s responsibility body to provide water for citizens.

August 2019, the Managing Director, Duannah Kamara, said all hands promised to restored pipe-borne water via the thirty-six transmission lines which supply most parts of the city and its environs, but there were no dates attached.

Famatta and others say the city council should ensure that water is at a less cost specifically as Liberia’s economic difficulties compel citizens to come down to their knees.

Famatta says many people, including her, get water from a river, which also contains sewage. She believes it has affected her family’s health specifically her grandchildren.  As the case would be, many dwelling places in Monrovia lack toilet facility and residents build make-shift structures in the rivers and mangrove swamp nearby to use for defecation, which consequently pollutes the rivers.

“We suffered from stomach pains and my grandchildren are always complaining of stomach pains, and I highly suspect that it’s because of the water that we are getting; it is unsafe for our chores,” she says.

Clara Town, Gibraltar and Slipway are nearby communities of Liberia’ many suburbs that have not had a regular supply of water for years, perhaps because the infrastructure is old.

Some environments have boreholes, but they require electricity, and power cuts have made them unable to pump water and some have been damaged and need repairing.

In the absence of pipe-borne water in most communities, residents have had to find water by digging their own wells or hand pumps.

However, because of an ongoing dry season, many wells have dried up and residents are left with a few alternatives while some have sought water from unsafe sources.

The Government of Liberia through the National Legislature in August 2016 passed into Law the National Water Supply and Sanitation Commission Act.

The Law seeks to ensure vibrant Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector supported by direct National Government and development partners’ investment which is critical to the rapid economic recovery, reconstruction and development of Liberia.

The Law recognizes that the economic and social development objectives of the people of Liberia shall be best achieved by a favorable and improved Water Supply and Sanitation Services (WSS).

At the same time, Liberia and the world have committed to being on track to reach the Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6): to ensure availability and sustainable management of sanitation and water for all by 2030.

According to the United Nations, today, 4.5 billion live without a safe toilet and 892 million people still practise open defecation.

SDG 6 aims to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet and that no-one practices open defecation by 2030. Failure to achieve this goal risks the entire 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

UNICEF 2017 report states that low-lying areas of Liberia are prone to flooding, an issue compounded by the country’s ineffective water and sewage infrastructure, improper waste disposal, pollution, and open defecation –conditions under which waterborne illnesses such as cholera and diarrhea thrive.

UNICEF Liberia said they responded to a flood emergency in the Unification Town in Margibi County in April, which affected an estimated 3,000 persons.  The intervention also included the provision of Water Guard for household water treatment to 466 families (2,485 persons), and psychosocial support services to 28 children (18 girls, 10 boys).

Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation is still struggling to deal with its eroded pipes since the end of the civil crisis.

The Millennium Challenge Account Liberia (MCA-L) last year December signed a US$18 million agreement with the LWSC for the construction of major pipeline responsible to supply water to over one million customers in Monrovia and its environs, which when done will address water problem facing about one million of Montserrado County’s 1,118,241 population (LISGIS, 2008).

On Wednesday, February 6, several urban communities began to be hit by water shortage. Johnsonville, Paynesville, Congo Town, Sinkor, and Central Monrovia were all without supplies.

The LWSC confirmed the situation and said it was due to a “technical breakdown of its 36-inch transmission pipe” and that there will be a disruption of water supply to communities along the route.

The shortage was expected to last for about seven days, the agency said, noting that “only communities along the 36-inch transmission route will be affected.”

“LWSC regrets any inconvenience this disruption may cause the general public and its valued customers and assures the public that its technicians are working rapidly to restore the damaged 36-inch transmission pipe,” it said.

According to LWSC, technicians are working to repair the damaged 36-in transmission pipe that carries water to Paynesville, Congo Town, and Monrovia.

The LWSC is facing a reduction in its budget – from a US$1,557,336 allocation in 2016/2017 to 1,057,130 in 2017/2018. Currently, the agency has US$ 539,855.

It is unclear how the budget cut is impacting the agency’s performance.

In November 2019 Millennium Challenge Account- Liberia ( MCA-L) and the Liberia Water And Sewer Corporation  ( LWSC) broke ground for the construction of a US$18million  new raw water intake from the dam of the Hydropower Plant to the White Plains Water Treatment Plant.

The pipeline is part of the Energy project under the Millennium Challenge Corporation  ( MCC) Compact with Liberia through a grant of US$ 257m provided by the United States of America to address the lack of access to reliable and affordable electricity and adequate road  infrastructure.

The pipeline project for which the Government of Liberia and the MCA-L broke grounds according to the LWSC will deliver water from the dam using gravity flow, saving the LWSC US $780,000 yearly in electricity costs to pump water to the water treatment plant.

The LWSC said on its website said the project will improve the reliability and quality of the water supply to the nearly one million residents of Greater Monrovia.

The current pipes were constructed in 1957 and it was reportedly destroyed due to the Liberian civil conflict, a situation which now makes it difficult for LWSC to adequately supply Monrovia and its environs.  Another factor is that the pipes have lasted beyond their period of durability.

According to the 2017 UNICEF annual report, a nationwide water-point mapping exercise highlighted the scale of inequitable access to WASH facilities in south-eastern Liberia and in urban slums in Monrovia.

The report states that an estimated 58,000 people living in five communities of the capital’s most congested slums benefited from the extension of water supply systems and gender-and disability-friendly sanitation facilities, while 41,000 students benefited from improved water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) services and 39,000 benefited from better WASH systems in 10 healthcare facilities.

However, most Liberians still do not have access to running water, which is supplied to some neighborhoods by the LWSC.

Famatta and others just want a solution, “The government must find a way to fix this problem,” she says. “We do not know if the water sources no longer have water. They should at least fix our pipes so that we get water and put up more boreholes.”


This article was submitted by She Writes, She Leads.

11 COMMENTS

  1. To supply Liberia/Monrovia with drinking water is very easy but one has to have the Know-Hows, Skillsets, etc. I discussed many of Liberia’s developments with picture examples in my 2017 Platforms.
    I believe there are people in Liberia from most groups that have read my 2017 platform. I put that platform together without the help of anybody.
    But I will tell you, you will never see me working for people who are not higher than me; I am one person who believes in eating Book!

    God bless us, we are down. We are not setup.
    Only the better of our educated with the needed Know-Hows can, will move Liberia forward.

    • Yarkpajuwur N. Mayor. Quotes ” But I will tell you, you will never see me working for people who are not higher than me; I am one person who believes in eating Book! ” He should go to sleep and never try to run for public office because he is selfish and not in the interest of the Liberian people. He wants to Rule Liberia but his above statement is clear that he will not work for anyone lower then him. He is higher then Majority of the Liberian populations because of their lack of educational opportunities ; so therefore, he can not work for us.
      You are a selfish man and wants to become president to Cheat us more of everything and claim that you knows it all. Mr know it all, IF u do then prove it now. You don’t have to be President to do your National duties to protect your fellow citizens (Liberian ).

      What have you done? Not what will you do? We are tired with paper platforms from politicians.
      We want to KNOW what you had done ; it will speak to us what you can do.

      GO AND SLEEP.

      • Mr. Thomas H. Menyeah,
        You asked, What can I do, not what I learned?
        Your logic is upside down and you do NOT have the education to qualify me.

        Before you do anything smart, you will need to go to school for a long time to get the KNOW-HOWS needed for the development of our country. In my case, I went to school for atleast 25+ years in the sciences. Most of my friends in the medical, etc, went in similar time.
        2.I started my first grade in 1967 at the Lutheran Mission in Kpaiyea-Zorzor Lofa County.
        Nobody in Liberia can teach me anything, nothing; even in the native settings. All the children went to school at that time and they were all happy to have gone to school. Where are all those children today?
        Where are the student from LTI, St. Patricks, CWA, Gbarnga, MCSS, Konola, RICKS, etc? Where are they?
        We have people like you who feels he can tell me what am able or not able to do. This is where Liberia has ended.
        3. Politician?
        I am an Engineer, Geophysicist with additional Skillsets (HighEnd Computer Engineering, etc).
        Can any of the politician you know really debate with me about the most needed areas of Liberia’s develoipment? All your politicians you know, do not have the Know-HOWs it takes for Liberia. Look for my development Platform from 2017 which is focus 100% on Know-Hows. Tell your Bosses to read it.
        Liberian, like other nations around the world should first learn Trade, Skillsets, Know-Hows before doing anything smart (clean drinking water, manufacturing, industries, etc).

  2. Albert Einstein always worked in a group with people who were always lower and higher than him in thinking. He documented his works and put them at the disposal of the world at large, don’t die with yours!

    “The secret of success is to find a need and fill it, to find a hurt and heal it, to find somebody with a problem and offer to help solve it”, Robert H. Schuller.

    • Mr. Dolo et All.
      I know you are a smart man but I am afraid you are in the wrong direction or group. Do not move stay with them.
      Those are some of the issues (drinking water) all Liberian politician should ask to fix.
      Atleast 90+% of our issues are similar to this water issues. We have massive rain/water in Liberia; why do we have issues with having drinking water? Ofcourse the solution is Engineering and Science.
      Can Cummings and the others even talk about having the Know-Hows to discuss such and similart issues? Do they even know what hydro dams or nuclear, fossil, cole hydro Powerplants are? NO, but they want to be at the top while the best educated with needed Know-Hows serve under them. It is impossible for me to serve my country under these people.
      I can do that job easy but it will be very best for the Liberian Workers/Technician if I am at the top to direct many things that are keeping the country backward. Again, I was born 1957 on the farm.
      Nobody knows Liberia’s problem from down to up better than me. I saw many of these solutions in Germany where I completed my high education (Msc; not Dr. Engineer)

      Again, I challenge any Liberian about my statements everywhere. If you look at my 2017 Platform, you will see the pictures of the HydroDam, Water Towers that Liberia could build. Liberian should be able to built the reserviour or hydro.
      Everytime when it comes to Leaderships, we constantly see the disabled wanting to wanting to stand in the front. We will stay down until our ways of thinking changed.

      Note: The solution is in my 2017 Platform.
      I will never talk about something I do not know how to solve.

      God bless Liberia to eat book.

      • Dear Honorable Peter Curran,

        I agree with everything you say here every day. They are all true. Liberians look in the wrong direction but Sir, allow me to repeat this quote to you:

        “The secret of success is to find a need and fill it, to find a hurt and heal it, to find somebody with a problem and offer to help solve it”, Robert H. Schuller.

        Now, let’s look at the definition of leadership:
        A simple definition is that leadership is the art of motivating a group of people to act toward achieving a common goal. In a business setting, this can mean directing workers and colleagues with a strategy to meet the company’s needs.

        This leadership definition captures the essentials of being able and prepared to inspire others. Effective leadership is based upon ideas (whether original or borrowed) but won’t happen unless those ideas can be communicated to others in a way that engages them enough to act as the leader wants them to act.

        You were trained in Germany, fantastic! Chancellor Angela Merkel (Chancellor since 2005) studied Physics and Chemistry and so she is your role model. But know that she is ONLY providing leadership to Germany and not being a physicist or chemist.

        Barack Obama provided effective leadership to the USA not as a technician but a lawyer, Trump is providing effective leadership to the USA not as an engineer but a businessman.

        In our Liberian context nowadays, an effective and efficient leadership is defined as someone who can ULTIMATELY RECONCILE the Liberian people, someone with BRIGHT and COMMUNICABLE IDEAS to harness the natural resources of the country and ENABLE the EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH to the length and breadth of the country with NO UNDERPRIVILEGED region, an ALTRUISTIC OR SELFLESS PERSON who would provide PARTICIPATORY GOVERNANCE to the people to UPLIFTING THEIR LIVELIHOOD and PROVIDING ALMS beyond our borders to underpin the meaning of our foundation as a nation founded on Christian principles.

        Sir, your great ideas may be borrowed and fully implemented beyond your expectation under such leadership, though they are contained within our platform.

        Sir, if the weather is beautiful where you find yourself tonight, I would like you to like up in the sky and see if you can identify a single star. It shines brightly but makes little on no impact on the world. Find a cluster of them together glittering, they glow and provide light to millions in dark places on earth.

        Cummings doesn’t have the skill sets and know-hows you would like to see but he has the leadership ability. Join him come 2023, you may discover that your score of less than 1% in 2017 is worth 10%. With your 10% added to our score, our target will be met, and goal achieved from whence Liberia will embark on sustainable development to benefit us, our children and grandchildren and more than 100 generations to come.

        My profound respect, Mr. Curran.

  3. When the 48″ raw water pipeline from Harrisburg/White plains is completed, the issue of water shortage in Monrovia will be taken care of.
    The area in question was host to about 300 thousands residents in the past. Now it is hosting more than 1.5 millions residents.
    All of the infrastructural problems presently facing that area is due to over population. The existing infrastructural arrangements can not withstand the present demands.
    The ongoing plans to transport raw water from the St. Paul River into Monrovia will go a long way in helping to address the water problems.
    There is no quick fix to this more than 172 years old problems facing Liberia.
    Liberians will have to be patient and work together to find solutions to these problems.

  4. Liberia has 15 internationally recognized Rivers! One of those rivers has more water mass than Niger and Burkina Faso combined, and what Saudi Arabia would give half their fortune to have in their country. Water shortage in Liberia and any of the countries surrounding it is our own fault as citizens and lack of governance.

  5. Wait…I’m looking at the headline picture of the guy pushing the wheelbarrow full of empty water gallons.
    I saw that very picture in 1997, it’s old!
    Why is the Daily Observer showing us pictures from 23 years ago?? I really thought SK Doe was crazy for shuttering this iconic news journal, but I’m scratching my head in disbelief. Are they lying or just a slight exaggeration?

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