Coca-Cola, Global Communities Provide Safe Drinking Water to Rural Communities
Salala District, Bong County – The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation in partnership with Global Communities has turned over 350 hand pumps to several communities in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties under its WASH Entrepreneur’s Learning and Livelihood (WELL) Project.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
Speaking at the official turn over ceremony Friday, July 14, in Salala District, Bong County, the Communication and Public Affairs Director of Coca-Cola, Victor B.J. George noted that the project is his entity’s way of giving back to the community.
He noted that the project is also part of the Coca-Cola Golden Triangle Partnership Fund which is delivering an integrated community development program in the aftermath of the Ebola virus by deploying the assets of the Coco-Cola Systems through the provision of sustainable clean water access and capacity building support to national health systems; as well as empowering women, and giving support to orphans and other vulnerable children (OVCs).
He described the program as a unique one because of the measures put in place to keep it sustainable and called on the community to take ownership of the facilities installed.
“We are doing this because without the survival of the community, we as a business will not survive. We believe that the best thing we can do is to empower you, the people because technically anybody here is a consumer of Coca-Cola. So, we have to respect you that is why we are empowering you. Let us admonish you that as we invest in you, make us proud to use these facilities properly,” he asserted.
Also speaking, the Country Manager of Global Communities Alenjandro Tellez, lauded the community, especially the women for the pivotal role played in the successful implementation of the WELL project and asserted that the inclusion of women is a clear demonstration that they are capable of contributing positively to the community.
“What makes me glad is to see the community people; and I would like to highlight the high number of women presence here.”
“We have to understand, especially, we men, the main role that women have in our communities, and how strong women are. So this project also include women as part of WASH entrepreneur, as a way to demonstrate that women are capable to do whatever they want to do, with support as the same condition as men,” Tellez noted.
Giving the overview of the project earlier, Global Community’s Project Manager, Alex Keimbie explained that under the project, which was funded by Coca-Coca and implemented by GC, about 367 hand pumps were erected and repaired in 570 communities and three schools in Bong, Lofa and Nimba Counties.
Keimbie explained that over 90 community members including women were trained as WASH entrepreneurs to manage and repair their facilities.
Meanwhile, the program was graced by residents and government officials from the three targeted counties.
Assistant Minister of Public Works, George Yango and the Assistant Development Superintendent of Bong County, Anthony B. Sheriff both admonished the communities to take ownership of the facilities.
Mr. Sheriff averred that in the past, facilities constructed by NGOs and the government were misused and damaged because community dwellers were thought the basic skills to repair and managed them properly, but with skills acquired by the WASH entrepreneurs, the facilities will now be sustained.
“Government cannot send water to all of these villages. I am very happy to see the young people who have just graduated with these basic skills. If that opportunity is provided throughout Liberia, I think we will not have water problem,” he averred.
For their part, the trained WASH entrepreneurs, through their President, Marie Yah, thanked Coca-Cola and Global Communities for the knowledge and vowed to use in the interest of their communities.
The Coca-Cola/Global Communities WELL project came on a heel of a WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Program for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, which estimated that over 77% of Liberians lack access to safe water, adequate toilet, and proper hygiene; while, 6 out of 10 Liberians practice open defecation due to the lack of adequate toilet facilities.
Furthermore, the group stated that over 60% of all illnesses in Liberian are caused by or linked to poor water, inadequate sanitation and improper hygiene; further, concluding that over half of all hospital beds in the country are filled by people suffering from diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene.
Additionally, the group said that schoolchildren in Liberia lost an average of 40 school days each year due to diseases related to or caused by the lack of improvements in these critical areas; adding that nearly 3 out of every 5 deaths among children under the age of 5 years are due to diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene.
The group also stated that more than half of school-age girls who drop out of school do so because of the absence of a suitable toilet and availability of safe water.