It was discovered that in the year 2000, 1.1 billion people did not have access to an improved water supply and 2.4 billion people did not have access to improved sanitation. Due to this poor sanitation, it was recorded that about two million children died each year due to diarrhoea, while many women ran the risk of being raped every time they practiced open defecation. In Liberia, 3.1 million people out of a total population of 3.5 million people in the year 2008 had no access to sanitation facilities. With no proper sanitation facilities in the country, this compounded the problem of poor hygiene habits for the citizens. It was noted that 19 out of every 20 Liberians did not wash their hands after using the toilet.
In 2000, Tearfund began policy work on water and sanitation. It was noticed that an unequal status of sanitation and water was a serious concern. Hence, Tearfund in conjunction with WaterAid launched a campaign tagged ‘Water Matters’ in order to lobby on the issue.
Liberia became the first country to adopt the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA). They held long consultations on how to equitably and sustainably improve access to Water Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) with a delegation of Government, CSO, and SWA representatives. Tearfund’s partner was also involved as part of the CSO working group.
However, in a short time, surveys reported that the SWA-driven efforts in Liberia were beginning to produce dividends across the country. In 2004, 27 percent of the population had access to sanitation facilities, whilst 61 percent had access to improved water sources. By 2009, 45 percent had access to sanitation facilities, whilst 75 percent had access to improved water sources. Since the survey results were tentative, it showed that the percentage of under-five deaths due to diarrhoea fell from an estimated 19 percent in 2008 to 14 percent in 2011.
15 October became a day to mark the Global Handwashing Day (GHD) and as part of the Liberian SWA plans, the Ministries of Education and Health led NGO partners in organising GHD activities across the country. Tearfund and local authorities used Global Handwashing Day for Children washing their hands during the GHD activities to mobilise the town of Tappeta, Liberia, on the issue of sanitation. Educational radio talks complemented marches with drama and dance troupes singing and acting messages about handwashing with soap. Over 1,000 people took part and 2,852 students symbolically washed their hands with soap.
A resident of the Buzzi Quarter, Ma Yassah Kollie, who benefited from the GHD activities stated that her income was spent on medical bills and her children suffered from water-borne diseases such as diarrhoea and cholera, due to poor hygiene practices. But when she participated in the GHD activities, she adopted handwashing and other good hygiene practices and since then, she has seen the positive impact it had on her children. Ma Yassah Kollie now helps other children to ensure that they do not suffer what she suffered due to bad hygiene.
Contact of the Organisation
Teddington TW11 8QE
Photo source: Steve Conover