Life in Slum Communities in Monrovia

By Mustapha Sesay

Travelling along the coastal areas of most West African cities, one will be worried to see the overcrowded situation in these places.
Most people spoken to advanced reasons for it being the cheapest place to live and easily get access into the cities at a cheaper cost.

Monrovia is no exception to this; on a visit to two slum communities, West Point that hosts over 50 thousand people and Clara Town that hosts 48 thousand people, the plights created by the lack of sanitation, hygiene and quality water is unimaginable as one million people are dying slowly from sanitation, water and hygiene.

In Clara County, a suburb of Monrovia, located on Bushrod Island in Liberia in Montserrado, the birth place of the famous football star and now politician, George Weah, is very worrisome as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Journalists from fourteen West African Countries were moved with pity when the Headman David Jacob and community people disclosed that for years now there are only few pipes or water wells to meet the growing demand for water. Most get water from youths who sell it in gallons. Others will have to wait in line for hours or a days to at least get water to take home.
According to Albert, a resident, they are worried that one of their main taps or water wells is very close to the public toilets. To worsen the situation, most of the houses are without toilets or bathrooms. With such large population, there are only eleven public toilets. So people are now making it a habit of defecating in plastic bags and either throwing it on top of the roof of houses or along the streets.

This, in Monrovia, is called OPERATION CHAPEL BALL OR TODU BALL, meaning one must be careful at night not to encounter artificial bombs of toilets thrown in plastic bags.
To many this is not only polluting the air but also the main source of water during the rains. As such, the health of the population is greatly affected from both air and water contaminated diseases that are easily spread from one person to the next.
One major factor for this menace is that the population has grown at a rapid rate and the facilities cannot match with it. It is on this note that the elders are calling on the attention of the government and other agencies working on hygiene, water and sanitation to create alternative sources of getting affordable drinking water, establish dustbin sites, organize the youths to clean the environment and construct more public toilets.

Unlike Clara Town, the situation at West Point that hosts over fifty thousand people is nothing good to write home about. Commissioner Sylvester Lama emphasized that it is a threat to a cosmopolitan community. The population comprises different nationalities in the West Africa region engaged in diverse works of life.

Unfortunately, though it is one of the oldest counties, created in 1952 and named after West Point Military Academy of the United States of America with six different communities yet lacks adequate safe drinking water and sanitation facilities. On site visit, the shallow wells by the sea area are meant for cooking and domestic work. To get drinking water, they either travel to Clara Town, buy rubbers of water or travel to distant places.

As if this was not enough, the toilet facilities is unimaginable, the homes lack toilets, the youths who cannot afford to pay for the use of public toilets have to rush to the seaside and deposit waste products. For the other, they make use of make shift toilets that are opened to both men and women in the same building on a first come first serve basis. It is apportioned into smaller rooms; from the bowels of man directly in to the water all these waste are found floating by the seaside.
Here it is a matter of re-cycling of waste products. Most of the inhabitations are fishermen. So the fish eat the toilets and they are caught and sold or eaten by the locals. This means the toilets in another form goes back to Man and then to the fish.

It is no surprise that the Commissioner highlighted the health status of the 50 thousand people who are usually affected by water born diseases, pollution and unhygienic environment. It is as a result of this issue that the elders and Commissioners are now seeing the dangers of the makeshift pit toilets and now calling for the building of flush community toilets.
It is also suggested that the youths be empowered to regularly clean the beaches and costal areas. There should be more education programmes on hygiene, water and sanitation and platforms must be created where the youth and elders can sit and address these problems.

This situation is compounded on the grounds that there is no hospital at West Point. It was reported that for a place closer to the city, people are carried in wheelbarrows to hospitals far away. Recently, a pregnant woman died as a result of this acute situation. The educational facilities are also deplorable as there is only one public school.

The irony of this situation is that if we cannot address the situation in the city or its environment, what can we say about the rural towns and villages that are away from the seat of power
It’s now time to save the one million population in these two slum areas of Monrovia by ensuring that we raise the effects of there deplorable conditions among slum developers, sensitize the inhabitants on the need to practice hygiene, sanitation and getting access to clean and affordable water so that we tend to see a healthy and productive environment


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