Written by Diamonds for Peace Liberia staff
Brief history of the community
Weasua is a diamond mining community, located in Gbarpolu County, the western region of Liberia. It is a beautiful community, colored with beautiful features: the rivers, the green forest, the hills etc. The community has a population of over 5,000 inhabitants according to the 2018 local census report, jointly conducted by the community and the health ministry. Lots of people from across Liberia and the neighboring countries are attracted to this community and have chosen to reside in the area because the community is believed to be rich in diamonds. Diamond mining is the main source of livelihoods for the residents. The community has facilities such as: elementary school, community clinic, town hall, court house, police depot, a playground (football field), churches, mosque and 2 GSM towers. These facilities provide the condition for the residents to live happily. However, they have many challenges as well; one of those challenges, which is the main subject of this article, is the shortage of safe water for the residents’ everyday consumption.
Community Water Access
In total, there are 8 hand pumps available in the community; 6 of those pumps are public owned and 2 are private owned. However, 3 out of the six public owned pumps are damaged, therefore, the residents can only access water from the other 3 that are currently functioning. The 2 private pumps are in working condition, but they are reserved for the private owners use only. These functioning hand pumps are not enough to adequately serve the over 5,000 community residents. During the dry season, the pumps run dry quite often and the residents cannot get sufficient water from the pumps. At this time, the pump supervisors open the pumps only during the morning hours and people are restricted to fetch only a certain amount of water daily. In this kind of situation, a lot of people cannot get access to water from the pump. As a result, many of the residents have to fetch water from rivers and creeks for drinking and for other domestic purposes.
How is the issue of water shortage affecting the community residents?
Every living thing needs safe water to survive. Human beings need water in their everyday lives for drinking, cooking, washing, bathing etc. Without safe water people are exposed to many health problems. Many human sicknesses are believed to come from the food we eat and the kind of water we drink. Consistent with the challenges the community residents face to access safe water for their domestic use, they have to fetch contaminated water from rivers/creeks. These waters are constantly being polluted by mining activities, i.e. dumping of all kinds of human wastes including feces. Children and even adults often get sick with diarrhea, typhoid, cholera and dysentery, and the residents believe one of the contributing factors is their use of river and creek water for drinking and for other domestic purposes. When they get sick, they have to spend what little money they have for medications. The money they use for medication would otherwise be used for food, education or other purposes which would help their development.
The residents’ reactions
The residents of the community have seen the effects of the shortage of safe water in their community and have started discussing the need for more hand pumps in addition to the few ones they already have. A cross section of the community residents held a big meeting with Diamonds for Peace Liberia (DFPL) intervention. In the meeting they identified all the facilities they have in the community and the ones they don’t have through a community mapping exercise. The community mapping is a kind of assessment tool that reveals different perspectives about a community; it shows the different facilities available in a community and how the residents of said community are accessing those facilities. This exercise helps community residents to identify their strengths and generate ideas for improvement in areas where they are weak. During the mapping exercise, the stakeholders found that the inadequate supply of safe water to all the community residents is contributing to many health problems as mentioned above and it is a weakness they need to address.
The availability of safe drinking water to every human being is crucial and must not be taken lightly. Water should be available to everyone at all times; however, the residents of Weasua don’t have sufficient access to safe water. Due to the water scarcity, community members have to struggle all the times. They are exposed to the aforementioned sicknesses because they are using polluted water from rivers/creeks. This condition is undermining their progress because they have to use money that should otherwise be used for their mining operations, children’s education, and food. They want additional hand pumps which will help to alleviate the issue of water shortage in their community. Therefore, they are calling on Diamonds for Peace and other humanitarian institutions to help build some public hand pumps.
Diamonds for Peace is looking for funding to the sanitation project to build public toilets and water pumps in Weasua. A new water pump costs 3,000USD including training to local people on management.
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Front photo: One of working 3 public water pumps in Weasua. (c) Diamonds for Peace