Tag Archives: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Rose George – Dirty little secret: the loo that saves lives in Liberia

Diarrhoea kills more children than HIV/Aids, tuberculosis and malaria combined – and its main cause is food and water contaminated with human waste. Liberia’s president is trying to change all that.

For the worst country in the world, Liberia looks lush. All along the long road to Fish Town, the sumptuous rainforest on either side is a comfort, a green bath to soothe the dreadful red dust that is constant and the potholes that cause nose-bleeds, head-bumps and nausea even in this well-cushioned Toyota Land Cruiser belonging to WaterAid. We are scrunched into this car for days, because that’s how long it takes to get to Fish Town, only a few hours from Liberia’s capital Monrovia if you’re a crow, but 36 hours otherwise, because the country has only one decent main road.

Not just a flash in the pan: President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, is on a mission to educate her people about the link between early mortality and bad sanitation. Photograph: Aubrey Wade for the Guardian

To get there, we must loop north, brushing the border with Guinea, before swooping back down to a town that isn’t much of a town, the joke goes, and doesn’t have much fish. But it’s busy these days because NGO 4x4s such as ours are zooming through on their way to help refugees escaping from Ivory Coast, the latest poor sods in this region to be kicked out of their country by war.

We, though, are not zooming towards refugees but towards something far less newsworthy. It is my sixth visit to Liberia. The first was in 2004, six months into the country’s first peace in 20 years. Liberia had suffered years of stunningly brutal civil wars, orchestrated largely by Charles Taylor, now on trial in the Hague for war crimes (a man who once sued a journalist for saying he had eaten a human heart, and lost); and by other warlords with names such as General Butt Naked, General Peanut Butter and Devil. And this war’s stories were more horrific than most: mass rape; boy soldiers kept going by drugs, looting and raping; parents killed by their own boys; checkpoints made from intestines. Imagine the worst and, if you looked, you’d find it here doubled.

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Liberia’s President signs WASH Compact

Liberia‘s President signs WASH Compact

The President of the Republic of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has finally signed the much talked about Liberia WASH Compact which was developed at the Multi Donor Conference on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) held at the S.K.D Spokes Complex in Paynesville, outside Monrovia last year May.

Liberian President, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf

The Liberia WASH Compact is a product of the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) Partnership aimed at ensuring that the Liberian population can have adequate access to safe water and improved sanitation facilities.

A release from the WASH Reporters & Editors Network of Liberia quotes the National Water Sanitation and Hygiene Promotion Committee under the leadership of the Public Works Ministry as saying President Johnson-Sirleaf who is WASH Goodwill Ambassador for Africa, signed the Compact last week.

The Liberia WASH Compact outlines the commitment to meet the MDGs challenges through partnership between Government, the Private Sector, Civil Society, Development Partners and the Media.

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Liberian President and WASH Ambassador Ellen Johnson Sirleaf awarded Nobel Peace Prize

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf talking with journalist Rose George in April 2011. Photo: Shout-Africa

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is one of three women who were jointly awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Mrs Sirleaf became Africa’s first female elected head of state in 2005, following the end of Liberia’s 14-year civil war which left 250,000 people dead. She shares US$ 1.5 million prize money with Liberian Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman of Yemen.

In 2009, Ms Johnson-Sirleaf was appointed as the first Goodwill Ambassador for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene in Africa at the 2nd Africa Water Week that took place in Midrand, South Africa.

National stakeholders in Liberia are currently developing the Liberia Compact, under the framework developed by the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) initiative. President Johnson-Sirleaf received the draft compact at the end of a Joint Multi-donor Mission on sanitation and water that took place in Liberia from April 27-May 3, 2011.  Ahead of the mission Mrs Johnson-Sirleaf reaffirmed her government’s support to the WASH sector in an interview with journalist Rose George (author of the Big Necessity).

Mrs Sirleaf (72) is standing for re-election next week.

Related web site: Sanitation and Water for All

Source: BBC News, 07 Oct 2011 ; Shout-Africa, 20 Apr 2011 ; WaterAid America, 17 Nov 2009