Families in Liberia now empowered to make their water safe to drink
Monrovia, Liberia, 30 September 2009 – WaterGuardTM, a water treatment product for households, is now available for all Liberians to allow families to treat their water and make it safe to drink and reduce the risk of children becoming sick and dying of preventable diseases such as cholera, diarrhea and typhoid.
Launched at the Rally Time Market by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Population Services International (PSI) and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), this initiative aims at fast tracking the promotion of basic hygiene and safe water usage for households.
During her remarks, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, called on all women working in markets throughout the country to ensure that WaterGuardTM is available everywhere to reduce child and maternal mortality.
"Household water treatment is one of the priority interventions for accelerated child survival and development," explained Dr John Agbor, UNICEF’s top health specialist in Liberia.
"The household water treatment approach promotes a healthy behavior for communities and empowers each family to make their water safe before they drink it."
Water-borne diseases are the second leading causes of child mortality in the world, and children in Liberia, where one child in eight dies before reaching the age of five, remain highly vulnerable to diarrhea diseases.
Liberia is still recovering from the 14-year civil war that destroyed much of the country’s water supply infrastructure. The 2007 Demographic and Health Survey showed that only two-third of Liberians have access to safe drinking water sources.
"The prevention of waterborne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea, through the increase in access to safe drinking water, will contribute to keeping children free from such diseases and improve infant mortality and morbidity," said Dr. Bernice Dahn, Chief Medical Officer of Liberia and Deputy Minister of Health and Social Welfare.
"We are happy to guide this partnership with PSI and UNICEF that will impact the lives of so many of our people, and particularly our young ones."
Difficulties in accessing safe drinking water are high in rural areas, but the capital city Monrovia is not exempt from its own challenges for poorer households.
Pipe-based water supply facilities are working at 25% of the pre-war capacity for the city, producing only 4 million gallons daily for a population of 1 million people.
Pre-war infrastructures produced 16 million gallons for 450,000 inhabitants. In both rural and urban areas there is a risk that water may be contaminated after the point of collection by dirty containers and hands.
Household water treatment using WaterGuardTM will reduce this risk by allowing families to treat their water just before drinking it.
"PSI is implementing WaterGuardTM in more than 30 countries all around the world. Through our Child Survival Unit and its household water treatment solution component, the goal of PSI is to ensure that families in Liberia have access to safe drinking water to maintain the health of their children" added Axel Addy, PSI Country Representative in Liberia.
"Working in partnership within the public and private sectors, and harnessing the power of the markets, PSI is providing life-saving products, clinical services and behavior change communications that empower the world's most vulnerable populations to lead healthier lives."
WaterGuardTM is initially targeting mothers and caregivers of children under five years of age in Montserrado County, the largest urban center in Liberia.
The bottle of 150 ml is manufactured in Liberia and sold for 40 Liberian Dollars (about USD 0.55), a price affordable to many households.
A bottle of 150 ml is designed to treat the drinking water of an average family for a month and a half. However nearly two-third of the population in Liberia lives on less than one dollar per day.
Hence UNICEF, PSI and the County Health Team will conduct a parallel free distribution for the most vulnerable households to ensure that they can also benefit from water treatment to improve the health of their children.
Simultaneous community based distribution will be done in six other counties in Liberia in 2009 in partnership with the MoHSW and NGOs.
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