Rural Liberians Engage in Self-Help Projects

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Eight communities in Maryland and River Gee Counties have been declared defecation-free by the government of Liberia for no longer using bushes, fields, rivers and pits to defecate.

Weleken, Gbewein and Nimenken in Maryland County and Sweaken, Gbawalaken, Jarlatoken, Tarwoken and Tumaken in River Gee County were declared defecation-free by Ministry of Health officials last week after the inspection of toilet facilities in the communities.

The communities achieved the milestone after the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) engaged them through its Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) program. The program was implemented by the LNRCS in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) under the first component of its Community Environmental Health project in Grand Gedeh, River Gee and Maryland Counties.

The Red Cross also provided materials such as jerry cans for proper water storage, wheelbarrows, cutlasses, diggers, rakes, hooks, and shovels to support the communities in keeping their environments clean and help them build new latrines when the need arises.

The declaration was made by the focal person for the CLTS, John Gbah of the Ministry of Health, who congratulated the Red Cross and ICRC for the intervention.

“We are happy and proud to work with the Red Cross in the Community Led Total Sanitation Approach,” he noted.

LNRCS Secretary General, Fayiah Tamba, said the Red Cross is proud of the level of work it has done with the communities, noting that the residents are now practicing good health habits.

“We are happy to congratulate you for achieving this goal. It’s a commendable job. It shows that open-toilet-free is achievable. Your good health practice here will make other communities to follow your footsteps,” Mr. Tamba said.

Open defecation reduces women’s dignity and exposes them to physical attacks, rape and snake bites as they are constrained to relieve themselves under the cover of darkness to protect their dignity, the Secretary General said.

“We encourage you from now on to view the lack of toilet as unacceptable in your community and consider building and owning a toilet as a goal. Let community members see the building of toilets as a thing that individual households should take responsibility for,” Tamba urged.

The Town Chief of Gbewein (Maryland County), Jonah Toe, recalled that there were often outbreaks of diarrhea, cholera and other diseases before the Red Cross began sensitizing them on how to clean their communities, build their own toilets and stop using the bush to defecate.

“We are so grateful to the Red Cross for helping us to understand that we should not use the bushes to toilet because it will make us sick as flies from the toilet will sit on our food,” Mr. Toe said.

The Red Cross collaborated with the Liberian government in sensitizing the communities to become open-toilet-free. The Red Cross mobilized communities to build and maintain their own toilets, trained community based water committees on water supply, management, operation and maintenance, and hygiene promotion while teaching community leaders on government’s water and sanitation policy.

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