Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today is World Toilet Day

Don't Laugh! It really is. Designated by the World Toilet Organization to highlight the sanitation needs in under developed nations.

In Liberia, 3.5 million people share 1,600 toilets. Many people just use the nearest bush or beach, when millions of people do it, it creates quite the problem.

We look at sanitation in Liberia in this story from IRIN. It shows the difficulty buying water for sanitation, and how the problem can accumulate in Liberia's slums.

While rural water and sanitation facilities usually fare worse than urban ones in West Africa, partly due to government expenditure patterns and relatively higher poverty levels, the capital Monrovia’s “dire sanitation facilities” bucks this trend, according to WASH consortium advocacy manager Muyatwa Sitali.

Congested housing, no requirement that landlords provide working toilets, and virtually no urban planning have combined to create lethal sanitation conditions in the capital, Sitali said. Monrovia’s population has almost tripled since the end of the war in 2003, straining the capacity of the city’s outdated water-pipe network.

“Most of our pipes and other facilities are obsolete and need to be upgraded to improve water supply,” the Water and Sewer Corporation’s Tulay said. But many of the facilities were looted during the war.

In the Monrovia neighbourhood of West Point up to 70,000 people share 32 public washrooms which have four functioning toilets among them. “And this is one of the better managed water and sanitation areas in the capital,” Sitali said.

Cannot afford to flush

The decrepit infrastructure means toilet-users may have to use up to four gallons of water each time they flush, according to civil servant Florence Nimely, who lives in the city-centre.

“At US 25 cents a gallon, for some it is a choice between flushing and affording to buy food at the end of the day,” Nimely said. Per capita income in Liberia was US 40 cents per day in 2007, according to the World Bank.

Most Liberians are forced to buy all their water – for drinking and other uses – from street vendors at inflated prices.

“When some of my neighbours defecate they cannot get enough water to flush their toilets, so they sometimes throw the faeces around the place, exposing us all to health hazards,” Monrovia shopkeeper Samuel Tweh told IRIN.

Without regular running water, waste flushed into the system often backs up, causing sewage to spill out of manholes into the streets, according to inhabitants who rated sanitation as their top development priority in a series of assessments undertaken by the NGO Water Aid in 2008.

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