|© UNICEF Liberia/2006/Samuel Johnson|
|Children and their families in Jallah Town, a section of Monrovia, now have plenty of clean drinking water, thanks to UNICEF-supported water tank projects.|
By Patrick Slavin
MONROVIA, Liberia, 23 February 2006 – Before the UNICEF water tanks were brought into Jallah Town, in the eastern part of the capital city, 72-year-old Jallah Kollie and his family had to spend hours each day finding enough clean drinking water for their needs. Lining up with many other families from the community, Kollie would wait on the banks of the Messurado River, buying water ferried in from Bushrod Island, some two kilometres away.
And even that source was not always reliably safe. “The Bushrod Island water was contaminated. We had to boil it first and, of course, during the war, there were many times we couldn’t do that,” says Kollie. “These UNICEF water tanks are of great help to us. Truly, we are very happy for this.”
The water tanks have been brought in as part of UNICEF’s Community Managed Water Tank Project. Jallah Town is just one of the eight Monrovia communities which are benefiting from this project. Forty tanks have been installed here, providing more than 6,000 people with safe drinking water.
Getting community involved
UNICEF is also encouraging communities to take an active interest in their local water supply. Households are asked to contribute a small portion of money to cover the maintenance of the water tanks. Teams of volunteers are also appointed to take responsibility of managing them.
Ebenezer Jallah is a member of the management group in Jallah Town. “Contributions paid by the community towards the water supply are used as a revolving fund,” explains Jallah. “A portion of these contributions are used to pay for the maintenance of the facilities and another to pay an honorarium to the team that services the water tanks.”
Both during and after Liberia’s 14-year civil war the availability of safe drinking water has been a major problem facing most of the country’s population. “We had found it very difficult to obtain safe drinking water, and this led to cholera outbreaks which took lives,” says Kollie. In Liberia diarrhoea and cholera are two of the biggest child killers. Diarrhoea is responsible for twenty-two per cent of deaths in children under 5.
Clean water protects children from waterborne diseases
In the fight against waterborne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, UNICEF, along with the Government and the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), has constructed or repaired more than 1,000 water facilities. As a result, safe drinking water is made available to more than 300,000 people, most of them schoolchildren. UNICEF also promotes good hygiene practices in the communities, and has supported the Cholera Unit at Liberia’s largest referral hospital, the John F. Kennedy Medical Centre, for the past three years.
“By training teachers in hygiene promotion, UNICEF is promoting a child-friendly learning environment so that children themselves understand that unsafe water causes diseases such as cholera, which is endemic in Monrovia,” said Kabuka Banda, UNICEF’s Project Officer for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion.
Despite the continuing efforts more than fifty per cent of Monrovia’s population still doesn’t have access to safe drinking water, while less than a third of the city’s population have adequate sanitation facilities. UNICEF is committed to working with the Government and communities themselves to ensure that clean water will be available to each and every child and their family.