Pres. Weah, Ministers disappoint WASH Stakeholders .. Boycott WASH Joint Sector Review, as donors, CSOs expressed frustration

Participants at the just ended 4th WASH Joint Sector Review held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County

The much publicized 4th WASH Joint Sector Review has taken place in the port city of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, amidst disappointment and boycott of the 2-day event.

It appears that the path once thread by some government officials in the former Unity Party-led government for not attending functions relating to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) has resurfaced in the Coalition of Democratic Change-led government.

Key government officials whose Ministries and Agencies are playing major role in the WASH sector of the country failed to attend the 4th WASH Joint Sector Review, something most participants described as deceptive, unpatriotic and lack of interest in their own Pro-Poor Agenda.

Among those who disappointingly refused to attend the WASH JSR was Public Works Minister, Mobutu Nyenpan. It is interesting but disgusting due to the fact that Public Works Ministry is the Chief Organizer of the event, and that the official program of the WASH JSR was approved by the Minister.

Mobutu should have officially discussed the Background, Purpose and Expected Outcomes of the 4th WASH Joint Sector Review, but decided to boycott the event without any word for his undefined motive.

Another person was Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel Tweah. He was designated to speak on “Planning for Resource Mobilization”.

Side view of participants at the WASH Joint Sector Review

Minister Tweah previously accepted the invitation to address the forum, according to the organizer, but failed to attend without any excuse.

Another embarrassment and disappointment was the failure of the President to attend and officially open the 4th WASH Joint Sector Review.

Facilitators at the Review misled the audience repeatedly that the President and Ministers were on their way to Buchanan, something that delayed the official start of the program. Neither the President, nor his expected Ministers showed up for the 2-day event, or gave an excuse why they did not attend. This is troubling.

President George Weah was expected to deliver the official Opening Statement and Launch of the 4th WASH Joint Sector Review and Planning Meeting, the first National WASH Event under the CDC-led Pro-Poor government.

Though the process was attended by junior few Ministers, some development partners and Civil Society actors are of the views that the failure of the President and Ministers to attend is a bad start and a form of undermining the efforts of the government they represent.

In an interview with a team of WASH Reporters in Buchanan after the closure of the 4th Joint Sector Review, a WASH civil Society Advocate, George Karyah described the entire process as a gigantic failure.

Mr. Karyah also termed statements made by some actors that the sector has implemented about 95 percent of planned programs as a disservice to the Liberian people.

He indicated the statements are calculated attempt to provide a false picture of the realities in the WASH sector of Liberia to the global community.

He said there are still major challenges in the sector that need to be addressed to ensure that the sector is governed properly.

Mr. Karyah also frowned on organizers of the just ended Joint sector review for not proving the platform to CSOs to make its own case at the program.

He indicated that failure of the Liberian President and key government Ministers in the sector, including the Finance and Public Works Ministers to attend the Review in itself serves as a setback for sector.

Meanwhile, the WASH CSO Advocate is calling on the President to appoint Commissioners to the newly established WASH Commission to bring about a proper governance structure in the WASH sector of the country.

Making remarks during the program, the Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Tolbert Nyenswah urged the government to play a leadership role aimed at providing safe water, improved sanitation and hygiene in the country.

Mr. Nyenswah said WASH is key to the provision of health services in the country and challenged government to support the WASH sector through the National Budget to enhance the work of the sector.

the NPHIL Executive Director also urged President George Weah to name a WASH Commissioner to drive issues of the sector forward.

According to him, WASH plays a pivotal role in the fight against diseases, including Ebola virus.

In remarks at the start of the Joint Sector Review, the Chief of Child Survival and Development at UNICEF, Dr. Kamrul Islam reaffirmed UNICEF’s support to the WASH sector of the country.

Dr. Islam said increased access in the WASH sector is critical to the development of Liberia, adding that no country can develop without a proper WASH Policy.

For his part, WaterAid’s Deputy Country Director, Chuchu Selma emphasized the need for actors to integrate activities in the sector to bring about achievements.

Providing his entity’s view on the holding of the program, Mr. Selma said his organization remains a strong partner in the sector to ensure sustainable services are rendered.

For her part, Irish Aid Program Officer, Teta Lincoln said good governance, partnership, and sector coordination are key to a successful implementation in the WASH sector.

Madam Lincoln said long-term commitment from the government is needed to mobilize local resources as well as a multi stake holders partnership in moving the WASH sector forward.

She also used the occasion to call on the government of Liberia to appoint commissioners to the WASH Commission.

The 4th WASH Joint Sector Review was held under the theme: “Delivering Pro-Poor Safely Managed and Sustainable WASH Services”, with a focus on the creation of a ‘One WASH Plan’.

The event began with thematic discussions among government’s representatives, donor partners, technical and civil society actors.

The JSR looked at the status of the expired Sector Strategic Plan (SSP) of 2012-2017, determined the extent of interventions carried out by partners relative to achieving the undertaking set forth by JSR-3.

Also, it provided an opportunity for Liberia to set its national Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets for Goal Six through the ‘One WASH Plan’ as well as develop a list of priorities by county through a cost and signed annual work program.

Thematic areas discussed at the Review include Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Implication for Planning and Policy, presented by UNICEF, Working effectively together for the SDGS-One WASH Planning  presented by USAID Mission Director.

Leveraging Partnership for effective WASH governance in Liberia by Irish Aid Head of Mission, Role of donors in enhancing Pro-Poor WASH service delivery, and mainstreaming gender in WASH program implementation by a proxy of UN Women Country Director.

During the opening session, heads and partners of partnering organizations spoke of the importance of the sector, stressing the need for increased access to water, sanitation and hygiene.

In a media stake out with WASH Reporters at the gathering, Deputy Public Works Minister for Rural Development, Benjamin Banto, Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC) Managing Director, Duannah Kamara, WASH Sector Coordinator, Abdul Koroma  and Assistant Public Works Minister for Community services, Bolton Dennis said the event has laid out  a road map  for the WASH sector.

The WASH political actors said, the One WASH Plan will serve as a resource document for the government and its partners which will provide a clear direction on the form and manner by which service providers will be guided in terms of service delivery.

At the close of the WASH Review, Monrovia City Mayor Jefferson Koijee added his voice to WASH CSOs and others calling for the appointment of Commissioners of the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Commission in Liberia.

Mayor Koijee said the Commission will monitor and supervise the WASH sector and find remedy for sustainable growth within the sector.

The Mayor further noted that the WASH Commission will provide a safe and improve environment for all, something he said is key to the government Pro-poor Agenda.

According to Mayor Koijee, adequate drinking water, sanitation, and hygiene are all essential ingredients to ensure human health.

It can be recalled that during the planning stages of the just ended Joint Sector Review, a WASH CSO Advocate, Timothy Kpeh raised a red flag, calling for the cancellation of the 4th WASH Joint Sector Review, something that sparked missed reactions.

According to Kpeh, the holding of the Review was a waste of resources and the intended objectives will not be achieved.

WASH Civil Society Advocate Kpeh continues to call for the appointment of officials to the WASH Commission to settle the issues of governance and financing in the sector.

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