"You have to go in with a different set of eyes and a sense of humility when you venture into people's communities with your concepts of what it means to develop "their" community. There are many facets to the development needs that they may have in a village."

It is startling that Liberia is a country surrounded by water, yet faces the fact that 1.2 million of its citizens lack access to clean water and sanitation sources. This is a challenge that adversely affects public health, as in the case of the most recent Ebola epidemic and other water borne diseases, which have long, plagued the country.


The Issues

The burden of fetching drinking water from outdoor sources falls disproportionately on women and young girls. The effects from lack of clean water and access to adequate sanitation are widespread, and go beyond immediate health issues. During the dry season, hundreds of collective hours are dedicated each week walking miles daily, usually with a child strapped to their backs in transporting this unclean water. This is done by hand, from surface water sources such as creeks and swamps to the villages. This time could be spent doing more activities that are productive, yet the journey for water hinders a woman's ability to engage in income- generating work and many girls are unable to attend school.

The majority of the population lives in rural communities (up-country) where little or no basic social services are available. Liberians living in the rural areas are still drinking from contaminated creeks and use nearby bushes to defecate. Diseases such as illnesses from diarrhea and cholera run rampant during the rainy season and could be prevented by clean water and good hygiene. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 11,900 people die every year due to poor water and sanitation in Liberia. Another study conducted along with UNICEF, estimated that 2,600 children under the age of five die every year from diarrhea in the country due to this problem. Women and children withstand the worst of waterborne illnesses, due to social and cultural inequality.  They are at risk for increased violence as they travel rural areas in search of water. In addition, they may suffer from malnutrition and other health issues, as the diseases they contract from the contaminated water can deplete the body of precious nutrients.


Safety

Without access to latrines, bathing facilities and clean water sources, many women and girls are sitting targets and are at an increased risk for physical attack and sexual violence. They have to travel great distances from their villages on a daily basis, and are even at risk when they must go to the edge of the village to find a private place to relieve themselves or bathe during the cloak of darkness.

A high number of women and girls in rural areas in Africa are raped when they resort to open defecation because they have no private sanitation facilities at home or in their immediate communities.


Education

Girls often have to walk long distances to fetch water and firewood in the early morning. After such an arduous chore, they may arrive late and tired at school. Being "needed at home" and unplanned pregnancies due to violence and rape is a major reason why children, especially girls from poor families, drop out of school. Providing water closer to homes increases girls’ free time and boosts their school attendance. In a related study, there was an increase in school attendance when water was available within 15 minutes compared to more than half an hour away. When girls enter puberty, they are often forced to skip classes or drop out of school, because there are no separate toilets for them to guarantee privacy. Lack of separate and decent sanitation and washing facilities discourages girls who are menstruating from attending full time, often adding up to a significant proportion of school days missed.


Women's Empowerment

While women often have the primary responsibility for the management of household water supply, they are rarely consulted or involved in the planning and attainment of this vital resource in their communities. In sub-Saharan Africa, women areresponsible to source up to 90 percent of water and wood for the family. Yet they have the least access to the means of this source.

There is evidence to show that water and sanitation services are generally more effective if women take an active role in the various stages involved in setting them up, from design to planning, through to the ongoing operations and maintenance procedures required to make any initiative sustainable. A World Bank evaluation of 122 water projects found that the effectiveness of a project was six to seven times higher where women were involved than where they were not. Higher Ground International believes that in order to level the playing field and bring equity to the issue of water and sanitation generation, it is beneficial to "put it in the hands of the women."


Fulfilling A Need

The organization’s work is contained in the rural township of Arthington (on the outskirts) of Montserrado County, Monrovia, Liberia and extends to the ten surrounding villages within the area. When Higher Ground International first entered Arthington, the organization's focus was not in the WASH (Water | Sanitation | Hygiene) sector. HGI's intent was to install two hand pumps and a community bathroom and latrine in a central location, with the hope of fulfilling the sanitation needs in the area and then moving on to other sustainable development work. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

What we learned is that we need to listen to the people who live in these communities and discover what is important to them.

After mapping the community and assessing the needs of the village, HGI established a partnership with the stakeholders in the community. Together, we started to focus on what was most important; and that was to ensure that each village has access to clean water and community bathrooms and latrines.

HGI has embarked on the Mission 10 | 20 campaign to build ten community bathrooms and twenty clean water hand-pumps across Arthington and ten rural villages in the region.

The villagers have welcomed us by collaborating on a massive outreach for community building. We intend to create long-term sustainable impact by providing more wells, sanitary facilities as well as educational and job creating opportunities. Because it is a rural area, HGI is fulfilling its mission by working with the local residents as well as the young adults who integrate within the communities.


Why Community Building

You have to go in with a different set of eyes and a sense of humility when you venture into people's communities with your concepts of what it means to develop "their" community. There are many facets to the development needs that they may have in a village. Yes, the focus may be on water and sanitation; however, it is so much more than that.  It is about partnerships and participatory community development, empowerment and sustainability, all based on sharing concepts of self reliance, economic cooperation, and proactive improvement for the common good of all members within the village. That is why HGI's Community Development System is so vital to the success of our HGI Village Clean Water and Sanitation Project.


Investing in the Solution

Clean ground water can be obtained in villages with a hand-dug well or with a borehole well. Hand dug wells are holes in the ground that have been dug with tools to a maximum depth of 40', then finished off by lining with concrete culverts and covering with a pad and hand pump.  

When the water table is too deep to reach by hand digging (dangerous) a borehole is required to access clean water. Bore holes are drilled deep into the ground (85+ meters) using motorized equipment, in the location that hydrogeological surveying indicated was likely to contain underground water. Pipes are then installed into the hole to protect the water, a concrete pad is installed over the hole, and a hand pump is installed to allow clean water to be brought to the surface.

Higher Ground International has experience with boreholes and hand dug wells, and has a trusted network of water contractors on call for when funds are ready for the next project. The borehole drilling method is the best and most expensive method for sustainable water flow during the dry season, which is six months out of the year. This ensures that a village will have access to clean water throughout the year.


How We Work

We are always prepared to undertake the next HGI Village Clean Water and Sanitation Project, and invite sponsors, like you, to contribute to financing as many clean water hand pumps as possible! The process of bringing clean water to rural villages in Arthington, Liberia through costs about $6,500 per borehole and $4,000 per hand dug well. Community bathroom and latrines are at a cost of $8,500.

Either option includes:

  • Hydrogeological surveying to determine the location of ground water
  • Transport of rig and drilling of bore hole or hand digging the well
  • Installation of pipes, walls, foundation and hand pump
  • Training of village water committees on how to use and maintain the pump
  • Community development training focusing on economic cooperation and self-reliance
  • Hygiene and sanitation training
  • On-site project supervision
  • Post-installation follow up and community development training
  • And all labor and materials

Cost broken down by benefit over time:

For example, in a village that receives a $6,500 water installation for 150 people for the next 10 years:

  • $43.33 per person for the entire lifetime of the project
  • $3.61 per person per year
  • .009 of a penny per person per day

How You Can Bring Water To The People

We have 10 “in-need” rural communities requesting our assistance. They are prepared to do their part to qualify for financial support. Some are in the process of saving their 5% contribution as we seek funding sources to meet their preparation for clean water.

Please contact us if you are interested in sponsoring a borehole or community bathroom in a remote village that is in need of a clean, reliable water source and a safe and private place for women and girls to utilize. You can also join our development campaign where 1,500 people will partner with us and make a monthly contribution of $15.15 for 15 months to provide clean water and sanitation facilities to 10 rural villages.