Article courtesy of Bettie Johnson | July 9, 2015 | AllAfrica | Shared as educational material
Monrovia — Avoiding contact with human feces is one of the preventive measures against the deadly Ebola virus but it appears far from reality in Monrovia as several marketers continuously sit in water flowing with feces to sell and go about their business.
Monrovia, the capital city is over populated with commercial activities taking place at the Waterside market, the largest general market serving as a place where hundreds of people interact and transact business daily. On major streets- from Slipway and Water Street Junction to Mechlin and Water Streets, feces are flowing from one point to the other.
According to marketers, they have contacted the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, the entity responsible for the management of sewage but nothing has been done to address their complaint. Jackson Gardner sells female slippers a business he has been doing for 11 to12 years. He says the issue of sewage has been a challenge to them as vehicles pass by and waste feces water on them.
“You see this Pupu(feces) business we have tried several ways, but the Government has not done anything, they say it is the job they have for us because as you stand here that opening, several car tires can jump inside and we have to help them so it is like a job created for us by Government,” he said. Gardiner says the constant smell of the feces flowing in the water is making them sick but they have nowhere to go their customers can locate them at those spots.
J. Girl Nyuah, another marketer said “We feel bad selling in this place; the pupu (feces) water can disturb us sometimes the stores here have to close when the feces smell is too much”. She stated that she has been selling near the feces for over 2 years adding that when the septic tank is leaking, water keeps flowing so they have to sit in the feces water.
Madam Nyuah said “because nowhere to sell, so we have to sit here, we are concern about Ebola, because whole day we hear don’t touch people feces but we who selling here aren’t considered because we walk, we eat in this bad smell water every day and pupu (feces) water has lots of diseases so we calling on the Government to fix this sewage”.
Wilson Sundaye, 45-year old and a sneaker seller on Water and Mechlin Street said “Things are hard, nowhere to turn, the pupu (feces) sometimes scare away our customers but for us we want to support our family so we put things to our nose but it still don’t stop it we inhale the scent and sometimes get ill.”
He continued: “it is embarrassing because of this we can’t stop our business you see as you standing here 5-10 car tires hitch in that sewage and as the cars are passing they splash water on us. Anytime Water and Sewer arrive, they only pull the pupu (feces) out I think it’s over a year now since they came and they even placed a cover on the hole but it was not done properly which led to it dropping in the hole.”
For Princess Garpi who sells slippers directly in the feces water, she said it was frustrating to shower in the morning at home and get bath by pupu (feces) water and as a result she does not bring her toddler at her market site.
“You see my feet is soaked in the pupu (feces) water and this is what I have been doing 4 years to sustain my family and send my children to school. This is a complete health hazard, sometimes we are compelled to get far from our businesses because when the septic tank ready, it pushes out all bigger feces this is what you see now,” she said.
Another marketer, Varbah Harris- said “the water is embarrassing mostly when rain falling, what we heard is the septic tank is for Government and we don’t know if it is true, but we inside it selling because this is the only place to get our daily bread, when it is raining we have to stand on the sidewalk because if you go home you will be hungry and you will be starving the children.”
At the center of Mechlin and Water Streets, a hole is said to be the main sewer for many houses and building in the vicinity. It pushes out lots of feces as marketers are inhaling and selling in the name of survival.
Hold your Nose and Pass
At the same time, the intersection of Benson and Gurley Streets in Monrovia are now considered ‘Hold your Nose and Pass,’ as the entire area is also polluted with the smell of feces from a broken Liberia Water & Sewer tank. Residents and passers-by who use the streets to tend to their daily activities complained about the health hazard the pollution is causing in that part of the city. Nowadays those passing on Gurley and Benson Streets including Benson, Buchanan, and Center Streets usually run whenever they reach that sewage point.
In an interview with a storeowner, Madea Mayson she described the situation as embarrassing. “What is more embarrassing is those vehicles plying the streets sometimes waste the ‘pupu (feces) water on pedestrians and even in our stores while speeding”, she lamented. The broken sewer tank has been leaking feces water for several years something she said the LWSC (Liberia Water and sewer Cooperation) has failed to curtail.
Most of the interviewees commended Former acting Monrovia City Mayor Mary Broh stating that during her tenure she ensured that pollution was more of her concern. Roosevelt Dickson said “you know the book people say you can’t miss the well till the water runs dry. Today if we miss anybody we miss Mary Broh because at her time we did not experience the pollution like the way it is now, we feel that if we continued to sell in this environment we will get sick and our children will suffer if we die.”
Elizabeth Washington also raining praises on the former Mayor applauded her for her farsightedness stating that she was someone who hated dirt and always ensured that the City was kept clean. “So we are calling on the Government to bring back Madam Broh to take care of the city because since she was removed from the MCC, the city has gone back to the dark days when things were just messy”, he declared.
Children at risk
On several Streets in Monrovia namely Gurley, Mechlin and Clay among others Children walk through trashes in search of items that they can sell to get meal for the day. As stockpiled of garbage expand in the Liberian capital, there have been several programs from the UN and Government but the implementation is slower as several Liberians have called on the Government to improve on its public health mainly the collection of trash.
It can be recalled that the President of the Liberia Marketing Association Lusus Sloan named waste disposal as a major challenge that is hindering the work of the Association. “Right now our challenge is we don’t know how, where to dispose our dirt, and those who come for it to dispose come late so the entire markets get polluted,” Sloan said. “Solid waste management is arguably the greatest public health threat in Monrovia,” said Patricia Slocum, head of Slipway Waste group. “There is virtually no waste management sector.”
She continued: “Virtually no waste management sector, along with a lack of proper toilets, means household trash, human feces, and hazardous medical waste is randomly disposed throughout the city, in some areas swelling to piles large enough to block roads. Children walk barefoot through trash heaps, picking through piles that can contain used syringes and bloodied bandages.
“There is a serious problem of hygiene in Monrovia as residents throw waste, including feces, in the streets,” said Moses Sagbeh, director of environmental health Association. He said water accumulating at dumpsites is spilling into uncovered wells throughout the city. UNICEF says at least 20 percent of deaths of children under five in Liberia are caused by diarrhea, which is in turn caused primarily by poor hygiene and lack of sanitation.
The UN humanitarian office in a 2006 report said cholera and diarrhea outbreaks in Liberia are due principally to poor hygiene practices and the indiscriminate human waste. The report says less than 25 percent of the population of Liberia has access to safe sanitation, with six of the country’s 15 counties having less than 29 percent coverage.
Constriction on sewage line
Meanwhile, Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation Managing Director Charles Allen has attributed the over sewage problem facing Monrovia to construction of buildings on sewage lines saying Monrovia is a swampland.
“We have a fundamental problem with the sewer in Monrovia, Monrovia is swamp Land and it’s under the Du river and lots of the land is flat across the bridge is sea level and the only high point is Mamba Point and upper Broad Street the rest of the areas are low land areas and swamp,” he added. Mr. Allen said the rain causes flooding and meet the sewage adding that there are objects in the sewage that also contribute to pollution.
“During the rains when the place gets flooded the storm draining runs into the sewer line and it’s overflow and bubble”. He also attributed the over flowing of feces to non-functioning of the only 10 pumps that the country has. “Another problem is we have 10 pumping stations in the sewer system and all of them are down and not operational”, he said.
“The sewer station runs from Duala to Old Road and the pump from across the bridge they have built over it also the one in Sayon Town they also built over it, there are two one down Water side and one to Slipway that lifts the sewer to BTC and later to Fiamah where we call Pupu (feces) station and from Old road to Fiamah by gravity” Managing Director said. He added that in the absence of the lift station the LWSC cannot work effectively as resources remain a challenge to the corporation.
“The absence of the lift station is a challenge and we always have to dislodge so we are emptying feces into the Atlantic ocean which is very bad, if you see the water flowing it means that the lines are blocked, sometimes they put in dirt, cloth and the last time we took out half of a plastic chair which is bad,” he stated.
He clarified that none of the marketers have complained of the pollution as there is a customer service at the LWSC. “We have a customer service the sewer people have their office and I think if they say they complained they talk to the wrong person, but there are records that no complaints here”, the LWSC Director said.