A Member of the 53rd National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia has blamed the Liberian government for its failure to provide basic social services, including safe water and sanitation to the people.
Grand Bassa County Representative, Gabriel Buchanan Smith says government’s inability to at least provide safe drinking water as part of its social obligation; means the government has failed the people.
“Since 2006 our government came to power, I must admit that we have failed to deliver on the social contract we signed with the people as a government”, Rep. Smith asserted.
Rep. Smith was speaking over the week-end in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County at a Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Interactive Program named and styled: “Meet the Law Makers Forum”.
A release from the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia says the Program which is the second out of four respective series, is organized by the United Youth for Peace, Transparency & Development in Liberia (UYPETDL) Inc., in collaboration with the Youth & Disabled WASH Network with support from the Liberia WASH Consortium.
According to Rep. Smith, the issue of water and sanitation remains crucial to ensuring that Liberians are healthy to also contribute to a healthy, vibrant and prosperous nation.
“When a government fails to provide the basic needs of the people that it is charged with the responsibility under the under the social contract of providing for the people, and on the basis of government’s neglect or failure, the people begin to die from preventable and curable diseases, most of which are caused by unsafe water and poor sanitation”, the Grand Bassa Law Maker further asserted.
“we need to rethink as a government and see if we still need to move at a slow pace that we are currently moving or we need to double up a little more, because the condition with water and sanitation in our country calls for an urgent move on the part of us as a government”, the tough talking Grand Bassa Representative pointed out.
He admitted that government has been slow in the provision of water and sanitation services to the Liberian people.
According to him, the water and sanitation crisis in Liberia is at an alarming proportion, quoting a recent UN Report which estimates that out of every 100 death in Liberia, between 18-20 percent is caused by water-borne diseases.
He believes that the statistics should even be higher, judging on the severity of the water and sanitation crisis in Liberia, especially in hard-to-reach rural areas.
“The water and sanitation crisis in Liberia calls for urgency on our part as a government, because it is the responsibility of every responsible government to ensure that its citizens are healthy”, says Law Maker Smith.
Rep. Smith commanded efforts of development partners in the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector and urged them to increase their visibility throughout the country and ensure that Liberians truly benefit from safe water and better sanitation services.
He at the same time praised initiatives by the Liberia WASH Consortium to engage Law Makers on water and sanitation issues.
According to him, efforts by the Liberia WASH Consortium and the Youth Group should be commended, stressing that he was happy that a group of young people and development partners were willing to work with local and international organizations to provide WASH services to the Liberian people.
The provision of social services to the people of Liberia remains the responsibility of Government to provide for the people. Rep. Smith used the occasion to pledge his support to initiatives designed to ensure that the people have access to safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene facilities across Liberia.
“We will also work to ensure that government doubles its efforts to provide safe drinking water and better sanitation for the people”, the Grand Bassa Law Maker stressed.
According to him, if government can’t provide electricity for now, it must provide safe water and sanitation which he considers as very important to the health wellbeing of the people.
Speaking earlier, the Executive Director of the United Youth for Peace, Transparency & Development in Liberia (UYPETDL) Inc., Timothy Kpeh described the Forum as another happy day for the people of Grand Bassa based on the fact that some decision makers of the county were present to discuss the issue of water and sanitation.
He said his Group is currently working in 4 of Liberia’s 15 counties including Montserrado, Margibi, Grand Bassa, and Rivercess.
According to him, the Program started during the 2011 General and Presidential elections to give political attention to the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector, a situation he noted that created interest for the WASH sector by successful candidates, especially Law Makers.
“The only way we can move forward is to sit and discuss with Law Makers on key policy issues and the responsibilities of community residents”, Timothy asserted.
He said the Forum is also designed to ensure the involvement of Law Makers in the establishment of a WASH Commission in Liberia, a means he thinks will address the issue of fragmentation in the Liberian WASH sector.
According to him, a draft Bill is currently at the Lower House of the National Legislature calling for the establishment of a WASH Commission to serve as a regulatory Body to govern the sector for the benefit of the people in terms of access to water and sanitation. He said the Forum is intended to take WASH to another level.
Some Grand Bassa citizens speaking during the Forum said they were happy to discuss the issue of WASH, especially with their Law Makers.
The citizens’ speeches were contained in separate remarks made by the Disabled, Elder, Women and student communities during the “Meet the Law Makers WASH Forum in Buchanan, Grand Bassa county.
For her part, the Advocacy and Communications Coordinator at the Liberia WASH Consortium, Robertetta Rose described as a dream come true for the WASH Consortium, which has been assisting the Liberian government in the areas of water, sanitation and hygiene since 2007.
The WASH Interactive Program under the banner, “Meet the Law Makers Forum”, was also attended by a Senatorial Candidate in the pending Grand Bassa By-Election, T-Wah Bedell, Madam Sabrinat Cajoly from the Human Rights Session of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), and Grand Bassa County Representative, Robertson Siaway who was represented by Mr. Arthur Kieh.
The Forum was also attended by a representative of a Member of the Liberia WASH Consortium, “WaterAid” and other partners of the Liberia WASH sector.
The Forum is the second. The first was held in Kakata, Margibi County. The remaining two will take place in Rivercess and Montserrado Counties, respectively.