A delegation from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) traveled to Bong County to visit sites of the Improved Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (IWASH) Project on January 14, 2014. IWASH is funded by USAID and has been working in Bong, Nimba and Lofa counties since 2010.
The visiting delegation included Chris Holmes, USAID Global Water Coordinator, and other USAID representatives from both Washington D.C. and the Liberia Mission.
They were accompanied by implementing partners, Global Communities and PSI in addition to Deputy Minister of Agriculture Mrs. Sekau Wiles, and the Bong County Health Officer.
The purpose of the visit was to see the major improvements to sanitation and water access being achieved by Natural Leader Networks and WASH Entrepreneurs.
In rural Liberia access to water and sanitation facilities is very low, a leading contributor to the spread of water-borne diseases which are one of the major causes of death amongst Liberians, especially children.
Additionally, open defecation is commonly practiced in these rural areas, which spreads disease and contamination. USAID IWASH activities are addressing these issues in three counties: Lofa, Nimba, and Bong.
The visit began with a round-table discussion attended by the USAID delegation, partners and nine members of the Natural Leader Network (NLN). The Natural Leaders have led their own communities to Open Defecation Free (ODF) status and then lead neighboring communities to become ODF.
Also part of the NLN are WASH Entrepreneurs, who repair hand pumps and sell goods such as soap and WaterGuard in rural communities. In the IWASH program more than 150 communities have become ODF and 30,000 community members are progressing toward that status.
During the discussion, Natural Leaders spoke of successes, challenges and future needs while USAID asked questions and provided suggestions. Mr. Holmes commended the NLN for the impressive progress with Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS). He also complimented what he called one of USAID’s, “best WASH programs in the world.”
The group then visited two communities that have been certified as ODF where they received warm welcomes of singing, dancing and kola nuts. Clan leaders and community members described how their lives have improved since becoming ODF, with less incidences of illness and a greater sense of pride.
The delegation was impressed by their resourceful construction of latrines, hand washing devices using local reed material, and cleanliness of the environment.
Both communities said that they are excited to be ODF but, are in need of a water supply as the next step. They see value in their intervention and do not want to stop the progress that has been made.
ODF communities have contributed greatly to the health status of areas in Bong County and everyone involved would like to keep the momentum going.