Clara town, founded by a Methodist missionary 40 years ago, is attracting global attention in recent years, as its inhabitants are burdened by the effects of poor, inadequate and over stretched sanitation facilities, unsafe drinking water supply, decrepit drainages, and poor hygiene practices.
The Clara community has a population of 48,000 with 67 fully built up houses (and another 967 unfinished houses) inhabited by 12,335 women and 11,730 men, people, according to a community census exercise. Its residents face huge challenges in accessing improved water supply, safe sanitation and hygiene services.
Access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services is generally poor in Liberia including its capital city Monrovia. Facilities have generally old and deteriorated no thanks to a 14 year old civil war.
Statistics are also unreliable, but a 2009 story by Allwestafrica.com reports that “just one-third of Monrovia’s 1.5 million have access to clean toilets, and 20 to 30 cholera cases are reported weekly; in 2008 there were 888 suspected cases, 98 percent of them in Monrovia’s overcrowded shantytowns such as West Point, Buzzi Quarter, Clara Town, and Sawmill”
Raymond is a 45 year old male resident in Clara town, who admits to practicing open defecation because basic sanitation facilities are inadequate, unaffordable, and over stretched. He narrates his experience,
“When you go to the toilet, you stay in line, sometimes 100 people can be outside, and sometimes 50 people can be on the queue waiting to use the toilet. You may pou-pou (defecate) on yourself if you have running stomach”
Another resident, Veronica a 9th grade female student of Saint Mary’s Catholic School in Clara Town, says some of her colleagues often contact water borne diseases due to the poor WASH services. “One of my friends had got cholera after drinking “. As a way out the school pupils resort to buying packaged water in plastic bags: “In the school, we buy us spent $5 Liberian dollars to buy Mineral water”
Though there is a toilet in her school, there are no soap and hand towels for her to ensure personal hygiene after using the toilet facilities. If lack of hand washing items is only her headache in the school, it would have been better. 15 year old Veronica faces challenges in maintaining personal menstrual hygiene due to lack of safe water and sanitation facilities in the school, saying some of her colleagues including at times excuse themselves from class work in order to cater for their mistral needs: “If the menses of any of the female students start in school, then you will tell the Teacher, and you will come home. We often miss classes and lessons because of this.”
By Babatope Babalobi, in Monrovia.