Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Slum Dwellers Face Sanitary crisis

The unsanitary condition of mushrooming slum neighborhoods across Monrovia has further deteriorated due principally to the lack of toilet facilities in the homes or even pits latrines for use by these communities.

Dwellers of this dominant type of human settlement across the city are also battling with ‘bad air’ or squalor emanating from mountains of garbage stockpiles in these neighborhoods.

Inhabitants of these areas have continued to blame their being in these areas on worsening conditions in their communities of origin in other parts of the country. For instance, growing slum communities along the Measurado River account for at least 2/5 of Monrovia’s population (970,824 people), according to the final results of the 2008 National Population and Housing Census (NPHC) published by the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) in May of 2009.

The slum communities include West Point, Slipway, Jallah’s Town, Saye Town and Plunkor. Approximately, according to the Census results, 194,000 dwellers in these randomly built dilapidated houses and zinc shacks without toilet facilities or enough spacing in between to allow sanitary workers reach homes at the rear of those communities to collect garbage. These people have also built more than 500 makeshift toilets along the bank of the River; thus increasing the unsanitary nature of their dwelling places.

To make matter worse, they also dispose of their garbage and other waste materials directly into the River, which in turn, serves as breeding ground for tones of mosquitoes and flies.

Some concerned residents of the above mentioned slums, recently spoke with the Daily Observer in an exclusive interview. They outlined several issue they think are responsible for the unsanitary condition of their communities, despite relentless efforts on the part of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) to sanitize the entire city.

“This community has been going on like this longer than you think. But I’ve continued to live here,” Samuel Moore, 33, a resident of Plunkor said.

“Some of the makeshift toilets are even older than me. Some, too, were recently built. You see as more people come into this community and build their homes without toilets, they add one or two toilets to those already along the river,” Moore explained.

Moore blamed their condition on abject poverty. He said they are hugely impoverished and cannot afford to construct flush toilets in their homes.

But Eddie Gietar has a diverging view on this matter. Gietar, a resident of Jallah’s town, is of the conviction that slum dwellers deliberately construct their homes without toilets. “It has nothing to do with money,” added.

“Building a house is a project and there is no way you are going to carry out a project without a plan. If you plan to build a house, tell me how will you leave out a bathroom which is to your own convenience?” Mr. Gietar asked.
Mr. Gietar recommended one way the people in these communities could stop using the river as toilet was if the city government prevails on owners of houses that lack toilets to make at least one room in their homes as a restroom.
“Until the MCC come up with a mandate that will have these people changing rooms in their homes to toilets, the river will be used for defecation purpose. That means we will live like this forever,” Mr. Gietar asserted.
Concerning the issue of garbage, an elderly resident of Saye Town, who asked to speak on the basis of anonymity for fear he may be seen as an instigator against the community said, the garbage along the river was a result of how cluttered the houses in the community are.
He admitted though he lived closer to the river, he also dumped his dirt on its bank too.
“It is not that I want to do that, but garbage collectors don’t reach my home because people have built their houses all on the alleys,” he said.
The Daily Observer then contacted Mr. Nyenpan Jlateh, Public Affairs Officer the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), via mobile phone on what was being done to improve the sanitation situation in the area.
According to Mr. Jlateh, the city corporation has organized a garbage collection scheme under which every community in Monrovia will be beneficiaries.
As pertaining to the toilets build on the river, Mr. Jlateh said the city government is running a running a water front program under a World Bank project to give the river line a face lift.
“We have begun to break down some of those toilets in the in the Slipway community under our water front program,” he said.
But what will become of the communities which relies on those river toilets, the MCC public affairs officer said his corporation was working in line with community leaders to identify areas where they could construct public latrines for the people in the area.

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