Hundreds of residents within slum communities in Monrovia and its environs are said to be at risk of falling prey to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) related diseases, as the rainy season deepens.
The Environmental Health Division, the Department of the Montserrado County Health Team responsible for occupational food safety, water and sanitation, food inspection and routine business inspection says, about twenty-six communities are seriously vulnerable to cholera and diarrhea outbreak.
These communities include central Monrovia, Soniwen, Buzzy Quarter, West Point, Slipway, Clara Town, Doe Community, Sayon Town, Logan Town, Bong Mines Bridge, New Kru Town, St. Paul Bridge, Battery Factory and Gobachop, among others.
Diarrhoea, cholera, typhoid spread through sanitation which is one of the leading causes of childhood illness and death in Liberia and most parts of Africa.
Environmental Health Supervisor Momo J. Kamara told a WASH journalist that the communities lack adequate save drinking water and toilet facilities.
According to him, the communities are reportedly engaged in poor hygienic practices like selling and eating uncovered street food, open defecation, improper disposal of wastes and are unduly overcrowded, among others.
“More people defecate openly, and they dispose of their garbage openly. Some of them sell food in the market very exposed to flies, and this has been one of the difficult tasks for us,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Mr. Kamara disclosed they are currently working with local and international partners to roll out a contingency plan that will enable them rapidly respond to any outbreak.
He said the Montserrado Environmental Health Division was faced with serious stock out of basic emergency sanitary materials such as chlorine, soap, and Oral Rehydration Salt (ORS).
According to him, the move is part of continued precautionary measures to prevent recurrence of the 2007 acute watery diarrhea outbreak which left nearly ten people dead in Montserrado County and about four hundred infected.
He stated further that the cases have dramatically reduced with increased awareness and sensitization by the general community health volunteers.
Mr. Kamara is urging community members to assist themselves build toilets as part of efforts to ensure improved sanitation and hygiene practices.
“We have already started our preparation again because every rainy season we have contingency plan for cholera outbreak. We are not praying for any outbreak but we are also preparing ourselves in case of any eventuality,” Mr. Kamara stressed.
Quite recently, similar situation regarding poor sanitation reportedly killed one middle aged person and infected two others including children in Upper Caldwell Township, outside Monrovia.
Water is considered to be the most important resource for sustaining environment, which provides life-supporting services for people, animals, and plants. Because contaminated water is a major cause of illness and death, water quality is a determining factor in human poverty, education, and economic opportunities.
For sanitation, it is considered a source of dignity. Sanitation is vital for human health; it generates economic benefits, contributes to dignity and social development; it protects the environment and that by improving it, sanitation will be achieved.
Sanitation concerns everyone, and together we all can make it a reality. It is against this background that the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia (WASH R&E) has embarked on an Exclusive Media Focus on Sanitation, sponsored by WaterAid in Liberia and Sierra Leone.