SAND BEACH, River Cess – A recent visit to Sand Beach, River Cess’s largest gold mining camp, has unveiled that the community has no safe drinking water facility in the area.
The settlement, which has 167 housing units and about 810 households, has only one hand pump, which is now dysfunctional.
Nowah Paye, a resident in the area, said the pump was constructed by the United Methodist Church but was ruined a few months later due to overuse since it was the only source of water for the entire community.
“The Methodist people built this pump for us, but it has spoiled because plenty of people were using it,” Paye said.
According to Paye, over 5,000 residents in the area now get water from a murky creek near the town, primarily for washing and cooking purposes. Drinking water is taken from a deeper part of the forest.
“We can take water from the creek near here, but the water [is] dirty, so we can only use it for cooking and washing. Then we take the drinking water from the bush,” Paye said. “Those who cannot go in the bush have to risk their lives to drink this brown and dirty water from the creek near the town, or buy a five-gallon container of water for L$30 or L$40.”
Mama Kaba, an elderly woman in the area, said she buys more than one container for both cooking and washing purposes on a daily basis. She also expressed fear that the water conditions might cause health hazards if nothing is done.
“For me, if I am only using it for drinking alone, I use about three containers a day,” Kaba said. “But if I am using it for cooking and drinking, sometimes I use eight to ten containers a day,” Kaba said. “The water business is very serious in this camp because anybody can get a running stomach from the kind of water we are drinking here, so we are appealing to all the NGOs to help us with the hand pump.”
River Cess is one of Liberia’s poorest and most isolated counties, with a majority of the population receiving water from forest creeks and rivers for drinking and other household use, according to the government’s most recent county development agenda for the county.
According to the FACE Africa, an NGO that has been providing access to clean water in the county, a needs assessment survey reviewed that the county of 80,000 people had only 80 functioning hand pumps in 2012, with some communities completely lacking a safe water point access.
Featured photo by Eric Doue