By Ademola Alao in Liberia
“When the Red Cross people came, we thought it was the usual visit people make to our community. They see our problems and depart making promises that are not fulfilled. But in just three weeks, the Red Cross made our water pumps run with clean water again,” says the community head of Zorgowee, who is clearly delighted with the eight rehabilitated water pumps.
Zorgowee is one of 20 communities in Nimba County in Liberia that is hosting refugees from neighbouring Côte d’Ivoire. The immediate need of this enlarged host community is clean drinking water. With the village pumps not working, people have been forced to use the river, not only for drinking water, but also for washing clothes and bathing.
The IFRC is supporting the Liberian Red Cross to provide water and sanitation facilities in communities that are hosting refugees. Along with providing clean water, the construction of public latrines has also been a priority. With the Red Cross providing the financial and material resources, the host communities have contributed with labour and some materials like sand and gravel.
“We are implementing our intervention activities, especially in water and sanitation, using the community participation approach. This is very effective as the community is very collaborative,” says Zakari Issa, the IFRC’s water and sanitation delegate, who is supporting the Liberian Red Cross.
“We held discussions on how we wanted to work together. We also explained that these facilities were not meant only for the emergency refugee situation, but also for the community in the long term.”
The community in Zorgowee has pledged to maintain these facilities, which will help prevent an outbreak of water-related epidemics and help people to live healthier lives. Community members have made fencing from bamboo wood around the water pumps to prevent children from playing with them and wasting water.
“We would like the Red Cross to come back in a few months and inspect the facilities they have provided,” says the community head. He also adds that women and children in the community are grateful because they no longer have to walk long distances to fetch water.
This project has increased the visibility and respect for the Red Cross in the county. As Red Cross workers pass by in their vehicles, women and children wave with smiles on their faces.
The IFRC and National Societies are supporting communities that are hosting Ivorian refugees in Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana. A revised appeal for 3.7 million Swiss francs has recently been launched to fund the operations that focus on providing clean water, shelter and community health services.