Short-term Cleanup Campaign Is Good, but Sustainable Sanitation Is Necessary

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The four-day voluntary cleanup campaign embarked on by young people from the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) in preparation for the inauguration on January 22 is quite welcoming. It is welcoming not only because the streets will be clean and attractive; but it also sets a positive impression about our young people who, by their own volition and willingness, have chosen to clean the filth that has engulfed the city. It also demonstrates their loyalty and sincerity to President-elect George M. Weah, who they staunchly supported to become President of Liberia.

We highly commend these young people for this worthy initiative.

Our Sanitation Correspondent, Edwin M. Fayiah, III reported yesterday that the volunteers geared up to clean the streets not because they want payment in return, but to give a facelift to the city as many guests are expected to come to Liberia for the inauguration. According to Reporter Fayiah, the young people divided themselves according to zones and districts to clean Monrovia in preparation for the January 22 inaugural ceremony.

However, here is a big question: What plan is there to keep the city of Monrovia clean after the inauguration? Is it only done for that day and afterwards we return to our status quo of filthiness?

This newspaper, the Daily Observer, raised concerns on many occasions about the poor sanitation system in Monrovia and its suburbs and the habitual act of people littering and dumping of wastes in drainages; yet the outgoing leadership, though they tried on many occasions to undertake cleanup campaigns, has never found a permanent solution to this grave problem.

The adverse impacts of poor sanitation in Monrovia are evident; clinical cases revealing malaria, diarrhea, cholera and strange skin diseases are but a few.  Not only the underscored diseases constitute consequences of poor sanitation; flood disasters that hit Monrovia on many occasions can always be traced to a poorly managed environment resulting from dirt dumped in drainages, causing them to be clogged.

Apart from the mentioned consequences, there is another thing to consider. Poor sanitation brings about an unpleasant outlook of the environment, thereby diminishing the image of the country and its people.

Entrances to Monrovia, including Red-Light, Duala, and parts of Sinkor and Old Road where there are stockpiles of garbage that residents are no doubt keeping dirty. Furthermore, the proliferation of mineral water in plastic sacs has increased littering to the extent that people drink water and drop the plastic in the street without regard for cleanliness.

Even as these youth embark on the cleanup campaign, people continue to drop water plastics and other kinds of trash in areas that have been cleaned.  This is done with an adaptable attitude that sanitation workers or the volunteers will come to clean the streets.

With these challenges, it is our plea that the incoming administration of President George Weah will give serious attention to the national attitude to sanitation, in addition to other priorities.

During the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone in 2014, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released from its study of the environment that the affected countries were sanitary poor.  At the CDC, doctors who lectured African journalists on tropical diseases emphasized that Polio, Diarrhea and Malaria were prevalent in Sub-Saharan Africa because of the poorly managed environment.

We are, therefore, calling on President Weah to appoint a serious-minded Health Minister with a strong mandate to prioritize sanitation by enforcing our health laws to the letter. There are laws prohibiting littering, building a house without toilet facilities, urination and defecation on our streets and beaches, among others.

We see our beaches filled with feces and we inhale fetid odor from public urination on most street corners in Monrovia. Halting these disease-imposing activities requires strong laws and effective enforcement, and we hope President Weah will learn from the shortcomings of his predecessor to engage an effective Health Minister and city mayors who will take sanitation very seriously.

We strongly believe that instituting measures to address the sanitation issues confronting Monrovia and other emerging cities can place our capital among Africa’s cleanest cities, which include Windhoek and Kigali. Yes, Liberia’s capital is not an exemplary city due to endemic corruption and destruction caused by war.

The Daily Observer hopes and is confident that with a strong institution and law enforcement in this new government, Liberia can rise from its slumber to build a secure environment where citizens will prefer to be, rather than other countries where they will suffer untold humiliation.

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