A total of 61 communities in Bong, Lofa and Nimba counties have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) after a meticulous process conducted by the government of Liberia with support from the USAID-funded IWASH Project jointly implemented by CHF International and PSI.
The IWASH Community-Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) Project Manager, Madam Elizabeth Geddeh said the government of Liberia, with support from IWASH, triggered one hundred twenty communities in February this year and that the sixty one communities are the first batch to achieve ODF, with the last celebration which took place July 11, 2013 in Lofa’s Kolahun District.
The other communities are progressing to ODF and are expected to be verified and certified by the end of September this year. It is expected a total of 100 communities out of the 120 triggered will achieve ODF status.
The IWASH CLTS Project Manager explained that the priority objective is to provide support to enhance and develop government’s capacity to sustain CLTS as the strategy for sanitation improvement in Liberia.
Madam Geddeh further revealed that as part of this capacity development process, the IWASH Project has assisted government in establishing structures, processes and procedures for CLTS implementation at national and sub-national levels.
She also said a National Steering Committee and a National Technical Coordinating Unit have been established at the national level. The National Steering Committee is the highest decision making body for CLTS in the country and is composed of key line ministries headed by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare with the Ministry of Public Works as co-chair. The National Technical Coordinating Unit (NTCU) is responsible for the technical control of CLTS activities as they relate to triggering communities, monitoring, verifying ODF, and conducting ODF celebrations.
Official programs declaring 21 communities ODF were held in Jimmiyea and Komata communities, Jorquelleh District, Bong County. During the Jimmiyea celebration, the President and Chief Executive Officer of CHF International David Weiss who attended the program spoke about the critical role sanitation plays in public health and praised the commitment of the communities to improving themselves.
Similar celebrations were held in Peter Town, Voinjama District, Lofa County where a total of 8 communities were certificated. In Nimba County, two different celebrations were held in Kpehtuo town, Gbelleh-geh District and Plehdeayee town, Sanniquellie-mah District.
A total of 18 communities were certificated during both celebrations. All the communities received a set of sanitation tools each comprising of rakes, cutlasses, shovels, garden hoes, diggers, pingalins, wheelbarrows and tire pumps, sharpening files, and whippers.
Natural Leaders who excelled during the process to ODF were awarded transistor radios to assist them access health and hygiene messages that would be aired on mainly community radios in the counties. These messages will then be transmitted to community members by the Natural Leaders as they continue to mobilize their people for maintaining and sustaining the ODF status. The Natural Leaders will also be supported by IWASH through the county and district CLTS structures to engage in sending sanitation improvement messages as they relate to the CLTS process.
The Kpehtuo celebrations were attended by a high array of government officials including George W. K. Yarngo, Assistant Minister for Community Services, Ministry of Public Works, and D. Omarley Yeabah, Director, Division of Environmental and Occupational Health, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare. Others included District Superintendents, District Commissioners, Paramount Chiefs, the County Health Teams and civil society members.
Speaking during the program, Minister Yarngo admonished communities to ensure that the sanitation tools donated should be used in a proper manner to always keep their environment clean.
He expressed the continued support of the Ministry of Public Works in ensuring that safe water facilities are provided for rural communities.
For his part in remarks, Director Yeabah informed the gathering that it is government’s responsibility to provide basic services to its people and that government is working closely with the USAID-funded IWASH project and other partners in ensuring that government takes the lead in service delivery.
He encouraged all partners involved or wishing to involve in the CLTS process to utilize the structures that have been established and adhere to the policies developed so as to collectively achieve sanitation improvement in the country.
Both officials praised the USAID-funded IWASH Project for the level of support it continues to provide both at national and sub-national level in creating an enabling environment for WASH.
Local government officials and community members all pledged commitment to ensuring that communities maintain and improve on their ODF status, whilst celebrated Natural Leaders promised to bring other communities onboard the ODF training for sanitation development.
The Statutory Superintendent for Gbehlay-geh District, Hon. Bartuah-Bartuah in remarks stressed his commitment to assist other communities in the district achieve ODF status and requested the County and District CLTS structures to engage all communities in Nimba County.
In a bid to sustain these achievements, IWASH Program has revealed that it will continue to support government and other stake holders in ensuring that proper, effective and sustainable processes, systems and procedures are put in place to strengthen the structures responsible for making CLTS a success story in Liberia.
Mrs. Geddeh said the IWASH project is also assisting government of Liberia in working with Environmental Health Technicians and Natural Leaders to set up sustainability mechanisms such as Natural Leaders Networks which will be responsible to trigger other communities and assist them maintain their ODF status as well as Scale-up on the sanitation ladder.
Madam Geddeh further added that Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) is the path for improving sanitation and hygiene in Liberia and is the gateway for community development.
She said under the same program, WASH Entrepreneurs have being trained by her institution to maintain WASH facilities like hand pumps in Bong County.
“The Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene program is not just focused on bringing one group communities to ODF status, but the goal is to develop the structures and capacity of National, County and District Government”, She added.
USAID IWASH Program seeks to make CLTS approach to improve sanitation, propel its implementation strategy in creating an enabling environment at national, county, district, and community levels. Towards achieving this aim, IWASH is working with government of Liberia stakeholders and other WASH partners, supported the development and production of the “Guidelines for Community-Led Total Sanitation Implementation in Liberia” a document that was published in December 2012.
Plans are underway for IWASH to support the dissemination of this key CLTS document at County and District levels.
According to CHF International, the aim for this year is to form CLTS field teams that consist of both CHF field officers and Government environmental health technicians who will work with Natural Leaders Networks at Clan levels to widen the CLTS base and lead other communities to achieving ODF status and scale-up.
CHF International also disclosed that IWASH staff will work with county and district Government staff to develop standardized systems and procedures for Government to manage and coordinate CLTS implementation in a sustainable manner.