PAYNESVILLE, Montserrado – Residents of Carver Community in ELWA are facing an alarming threat to their health posed by the filth from water sources they use for bathing, cooking, and other purposes.
The community’s current source of water is contaminated with waste, nevertheless, residents use it to wash, bath, and cook while at the same time use it as a dumping site for human waste collected in plastic bags due to the lack of proper waste collection and disposing facilities.
The major source of livelihood for over 10,000 inhabitants in the community is the small-scale crushing and selling of rocks which they get from the same pit.
A resident of the community, known as Ma Gorma, told journalists on Saturday that she and others there live in a life threatening situation.
“No water, no toilet in this community. The same place we can draw the water is the same place we can throw our pupu,” she said. “It’s not a small suffering we are going through here.”
Gorma outlined the economic challenges faced by the locals whose source of income has been threatened by what they say is competition from Chinese nationals in the rock crushing business.
This, according to Gorma, has even increased the residents’ suffering because it is from selling rocks that residents of Carver Community make a living.
“Sometimes it takes up to two to three weeks we don’t get a single buyer,” she added.
The local chairman of the community, Daniel Qoiquee, said almost all the residents of the community are poor.
“Our chances of surviving in the midst of these stringent situations are very low,” Qoiquee said.
According to him, a member of the community died recently as a result of the poor sanitary conditions. He said despite the situation in the community, the government has not done enough to address its citizens’ plights.
The current representative of the district, Edwin Snowe, has announced he will contest in Bomi – a different district – in the ensuing October elections.
But the Carver community youth leader, Emmanuel Dwalu, has called out Snowe’s decision to contest in another district as a testament to his failure to represent their needs as their lawmaker.
Dwalu said it is disappointing to note that despite several campaign promises, Snowe has rather abandoned them instead of seeking the interest of the community.
In order to crush more rocks and increase their families’ earnings, parents take their children along with them in the rock hole.
A 12-year-old boy, Jacob Momo, one of the few children still attending school in the community said he joins his parents and siblings immediately after school on the crushing field. He said it is the income generated from the rock sales that can be used by his parents to sustain his family.
Mamai Giyah, a 19-year-old in the community said she returned to the community to her parents in 2004 after a relative she was staying with asked her to return home.
“I joined my parents in the rock crushing field because this is what I met them doing,” Giyah said.
Besides being grueling work, she adds that rock crushing comes with a lot of challenges, including physical pains – sometimes her fingers are bruised as a result of the crushing.
She said it is even more challenging to sell the crushed rocks, given that those crushing and selling are more than the demand. They have to transport the rocks on their heads from the pit up a one-mile distance to a hill to attract buyers.
“You have to fight with others to have buyers purchase from you,” she added.
Marie Daniel, a mother of four children including a baby is among the rock crushers. She is hoping for a day when she will have a different livelihood rather than rock crushing.
Vero Caser, a mother of eight employs a different approach because it is tedious to get bigger rocks from the pit. Caser explained that she buys from the blasters for L$200 a pack and crushes it into various sizes.
“When I sell, I can get at least L$100 (US$0.92) profit for every pack,” she said.
The rocks are crushed into three different types; quarter inch, medium size, and big size. They are sold for L$10, 30 and 35, per pack, respectively (US$0.09, 0.28, and 0.32).
Meanwhile, a social movement organization under the banner of Citizens Action for Economic Justice has called on the government to provide quality and equitable service delivery to all citizens.
The group, which comprises of market women, motorcyclists, wheelbarrow boys, civil society, and charity organizations is demanding that the government cut down its current expenditure by 60 percent.
According to the group, capital expenditure which directly affects infrastructure and public service delivery in the current budget is just 12 percent, something it says is unjust for the currently marginalized population.
In a statement issued over the weekend by a representative, Annet Fuafuan, the organization said a huge part of the population is not afforded adequate clean water and sanitation, quality health services, and access to education, as a result of the huge allotment to recurrent expenditure.
“Considering all facts gathered and seen, the demographic landscape of human services rendered to us the majority by the government of Liberia on unnecessary expenditures, if the president agrees with our proposition, we the citizens of Liberia demand that the matters be attended to,” the statement read.
“We promise Liberians and all concerned citizens, that the struggle for a just and fair tax use has started and we have no plans to relent until the preamble of the Liberian constitution of 1986 is fulfilled.”
The group added that factors contributing to the country’s 14 years of civil war, including rampant corruption, abuse of public office resulting in violations of human rights, and lack of gender responsive public services, still persist with no good will intending to reverse them.
Transparency International ranks Liberia as third among West African countries, sixteenth on the continent, and 90th in the world in corruption.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her last State of the Nation address, admitted that fighting corruption and fully reconciling the country have remained serious challenges facing her administration. The president had earlier promised to tackle the menace, labeling it as the number one public enemy of her government.
Despite increment in the national budget to US$600 million, 1.1 million people in Liberia still lack access to safe drinking water, while 3.7 million people have no access to better sanitation, according to a Water Aid report. Two children die every hour because of the same situation, according to Save the Children.
Featured photo by Gbatemah Senah