The shores of West Point filled with waste that has been washed ashore by the ocean

Residents of two rural slum areas in Liberia’s capital, Moronvia, have called on the government as well as the international community to come to their aid by providing sanitation facilities to improve the lives of the people.

As a result of poor sanitation conditions of West Point and Clara Town, two overcrowded slums located in the heart of Liberia, which lie along the shores of the ocean, residents have been battling with waste and the lack of sanitary facilities for years.

This came to light when journalists from 14 West African countries participating in the second annual meeting of the West African Water Sanitation and Hygiene Journalists Network (WASH-JN) in Monrovia, Liberia, visited the two communities to assess the sanitary condition of the area.

In Clara Town, the journalists were shocked to find out that the area, which is home to 48,000 people, had only 11 toilet facilities provided through community initiatives, with support from international nongovernmental organizations, dotted around the community.

David L. Jacobs, Chairman of Clara Town Committee, expressed worry over the poor sanitation of the township as they struggled with the management of  both solid and liquid waste, noting,  “We do not have a single dumping site and rubbish is discarded anywhere.”

Showing the journalists a drainage in front of the town council hall, which had been turned into a waste dumping site, Mr Jacobs said, “We have to clean this all the time.”

He explained that the ever increasing population was overwhelming as 35 years ago, the community had only 15,000 inhabitants “but it is more than three times the number now and we are still growing but this place was not planned for so many people”.

He complained about huge waste generated daily which the sanitation taskforce was unable to handle, adding that none of the 960 houses had a toilet facility.

Michael Thomas, a resident who had just finished using one of the public toilet facilities located a few meters from the town hall, said in an interview, “We live in a terrible situation here. In the mornings the queue is so long and we have to pay 5 Liberian dollars to use the place. We also have to either 40 Liberian dollars to get a gallon of water if you decide to join the VIP queue or pay 10 Liberian dollars if your gallon is on the ordinary queue. ”

Those who cannot afford the public toilet resort to open defecation, which is called ‘chapel bump’ or ‘Tudu ball’, where they defecate in polythene bags and dump them anywhere.

 “No wonder many people suffer from diarrhea and cholera,” said the 27-year-old musician who claimed the community had not had potable water for the past two weeks.

However, in West Point, which is described as Liberia’s most populated area, journalists found the beach lined with over 70 make-shift toilets mounted on the river body while fishermen and fishmongers were busy at work. The wooden structures are used as a place where residents drop their raw faeces directly into the sea, the main source of fish for the community and other parts of the country.

Sylvester Larno, Commissioner of West Point, mentioned that the major challenges had to do with lack of potable water and sanitation.

To save the situation, the commission has banned the practice of open defecation, especially along the beaches, and dumping waste into the water.

“Anyone who goes around the rule is made to pay 20 Liberian Dollars. We have recruited 500 people to clean the beaches under the maritime initiative programme. But we are still looking for a solution to replace the makeshift toilets on the beaches,” said the man who believed the steps to clean environment “is a process not an event”.

By Emelia Ennin Abbey  

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