There was at least one Health and Social Welfare Minister who, upon his appointment, was advised to pay serious attention to sanitation. But he replied, “I did not become Minister of Health to clean anybody’s backyard.”
It was difficult to immediately reply to such an arrogant and shortsighted retort.
But the individual instantly but silently recalled the Tubman days when the National Public Health Service paid strict attention to sanitation throughout Monrovia and other parts of the country. This individual, who had traveled through many counties, also recalled how clean the rural people kept their towns and villages. They knew it was very necessary to keep their homes (mostly huts), neighborhoods and towns clean.
So, how now the person appointed by the President of Liberia to be in charge of the nation’s health and sanitation would so rudely downplay the importance of sanitation?
The Daily Observer has always striven to remind the public about the importance of sanitation. Remember in November 1981 we carried a back page composite photo of some of Monrovia’s worst dumpsites, under the headline, “Monrovia Stinks”? The newspaper was immediately shut down by Head of State Samuel K. Doe. He imprisoned the publisher at the National Security Agency and blasted him for being “a counter-revolutionary” for calling the nation’s capital city “stink.”
The widespread use of chlorinated buckets throughout the country and the government’s insistence on hand washing following the Ebola outbreak early 2014 were tacit acknowledgement of the importance of health and sanitation. But many Liberians and foreign residents blamed the ferocious spread of Ebola in Liberia—the worst in the Mano River basin—on poor sanitation around the country, especially in Monrovia. All our unattended dumpsites and drainages, overcrowded and garbage-infested marketplaces, such as Duala and Paynesville Red Light, contributed in no small measure to the rapid spread of the virus.
Now here we are again, being given an alarming wake-up call by Mary Broh, the dynamic and indefatigable warrior against filth and ugliness, performing a task that is the tacit and undisputable responsibility of the Health Ministry (MOH). This unappreciated public servant is nonetheless relentless in her pursuit of beauty and cleanliness of the capital and its environs. When she served as Acting City Mayor of Monrovia, the National Legislature did not rest until the President removed Mary Broh from that position. Now the President has assigned her again to clean up and beautify Monrovia and its environs—a task that has led her squarely into the domain of the MOH. For who else but the Health Ministry is more responsible to ensure the ethical and hygienic maintenance of hospitals, clinics and health centers?
Madam Broh’s discovery last week of filth surrounding the Mawah Clinic in Vai Town, Monrovia is a task that is the prime responsibility of the MOH, which must approve the opening and running of every health facility in the country as well as carrying out constant inspections to ensure that they comply with the Ministry’s regulations, professional operating procedures and universal hygienic standards.
Mary found around the Mawah Clinic, one of the most patronized health centers in the capital, used testing kits, needles and syringes. These are highly dangerous items that unlicensed and pretentious health workers could attempt to reuse, placing in grave danger the lives of their “patients.”
The MOH has a Sanitation Department. Is it not that department’s job to scout the cities, towns and villages around the country to ensure that they are kept clean? Who in the Health Ministry is responsible for monitoring all health facilities around the country to ensure that they maintain clean and healthy surroundings and that their used items are properly disposed of?
There are three things we hope for in this Editorial: First, that the Mawah Clinic has already gotten busy and cleaned up its environs and that the clinic provides sufficient seating for the many patients it attends daily, instead of having them sit on the floor.
Second, we hope that the MOH will appoint task forces around the country to inspect all health facilities on a regularly basis, to ensure that no more unkempt clinics like Mawah are found anywhere in the republic.
The Ministry should, thirdly, take seriously its sanitation responsibility throughout the country to keep our people and their surroundings clean, healthy and safe.
This is the first move in prevention, which is better than cure.