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Sanitation and Clean Water is an Issue In Liberia

In 2003, Liberia finally came out of a thirteen-year long civil war that ravaged the country and left the inhabitants riddled with poverty. Right after the end of the war, the unemployment rate was listed at 85 percent of the population. The populations in the slums skyrocketed and the people living there were left with little choice of where to obtain water or where to use the bathroom. During the war, rebels destroyed much, if not all, of the water and sanitation infrastructure the country once had. A decade later, much of the population is still impoverished and lacking access to the basic needs of potable water and a sanitary living area. In 2010, there were almost 4 million people living in Liberia, over 1 million of which were rural poor. However, there is a stress for clean water in slums, from where a number of people from rural areas fled to Monrovia during the fighting and violence in an attempt to find refuge. For every four people, there is one living without access to clean water and sanitation in Liberia, and for every five deaths in the country, one is a result of contaminated water sources. In fact, in 2012, the World Health Organization discovered that E. coli was present in 58 percent of the city’s water due to public defecation. This spreads illness such as diarrhea and perpetuates the issue, creating a cycle of illness through dirty water. Liberian president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has pledged to double the amount of access to safe water in four years, but has clearly fallen short of this claim. Phillip Marcelo of Rhode Island’s Providence Journal is spending two weeks in Liberia this month to investigate what progress has been made since the end of the war and the installation of democracy within the country. He notes that at the entry to the slums at West Point Beach, there is a massive pile of trash marking the place. The defecation of children is all over the beach and people are being forced to buy their water from “distributors.” While adults have been banned from using the beach as a bathroom and there are pay toilets in the slum, there is often still no other option. Because of this, the spread of cholera is common along with other water-borne diseases. The government is opening up nine new toilets for the area, but the inhabitants are not sure a real difference can be made considering there are more than 50,000 people living the area. Aid groups are investing time and money into providing Liberia with better access to clean water, with the hope that this will cease to be an issue in the coming years, if not in time to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Non-profit organization Waves for Water has raised $15,100 towards the goal of $25,000 to help provide clean water filters for over 60,000 people living in poverty in Liberia. WaterAid, another NGO, also works in Liberia and happens to be an organization for which President Sirleaf is an ambassador. Last year, they were able to reach 17,000 people and provided them with clean water or sanitation facilities. Help for Liberians is out there and there are solutions to the present issues, but it will take a while to recover completely from the devastation of the war. Simply put, it is going to take plenty of hard work and a revamp of the entire infrastructure of the country in order to change the conditions of those living in the slums of Liberia. – Chelsea Evans Sources: Providence Journal, Rural Poverty Portal, Waves for Water, PBS, WaterAid Photo: Sanitations Update [hr top]

  • $30 billion per year is needed to end world hunger.

  • $660 billion per year is the amount Congress spends on Defense.