By Robertetta Rose, Advocacy and Communications Coordinator Liberia WaSH Consortium
World Water Day like many other global celebrations, is the day we as developmental organizations create and facilitate the process for civil society to engage government on commitments and demand basic essential services.
As Liberia celebrates World Water Day today, I couldn’t help but marvel how emerging issues of Water sanitation & hygiene (WaSH) in Liberia and Sierra Leone are similar. Sitting in the High Level Inter-ministerial Meeting organized jointly by Liberia and Sierra Leone, challenges in the WaSH sector such as sector financing, capacity building and sustainability were the main issues hindering citizens access to safe and quality sanitation facilities.
In Liberia over 80% of people do not have a hygienic, dignified place to go to the toilet (JMP 2010), and diarrhoea is one of the leading causes of death in the country (WHO, 2008). Faced with these dire facts and the devastating effects on health, education and the economy that this translates into, Liberians from several slum communities; including students, joined the rest of the world on March 22, 2012, in a million man parade throughout the principle streets of Monrovia to send out an urgent call to the Liberian Government, the donor communities and Liberians in general to ensure WaSH issues are prioritized both at the national and community levels.
Unlike other global events, this year’s World Water Day celebration took a different trend with civil society and community dwellers affected by lack of access to safe drinking water and poor sanitary facilities, taking the lead role in the event. Brandishing placards with messages calling on the President to urgently issue an Executive Order setting up the Water Supply and Sanitation Commission and set up the board; and ensuring that the process for the PRS2 consultation is participatory and that water and sanitation are prioritised in the strategy paper with clear objectives and expected outcomes.
Moreover, receiving the petition statement from civil society, Representative Munah Pelham and Solomon George of Montserrado County expressed their commitments to ensuring a legislative WaSH Committee is formed to push WaSH issues both in the House of Representatives and Senate. Reps Munah Pelham and Solomon George are amongst forty Representatives who signed the pledge card during the just ended General & Presidential Elections in Liberia.