When the civil war ended in Liberia in 2003, the populations in the slums skyrocketed and people were left with few options for obtaining clean water or proper locations to use the bathroom. A decade later, much of the population is still impoverished and lacking access to the basic needs of potable water and a sanitary living area, which affects the health of the population as a whole.
In 2012, the World Health Organization discovered that E. coli was present in 58 percent of the city’s water due to public defecation. This spreads illness such as diarrhea and perpetuates the issue, creating a cycle of illness through dirty water. Sanitation is vital in helping to stop the spread of disease. One in four Liberians has access to safe drinking water and half of all Liberians have no access to a toilet and use streams or open areas. As many as 1 in 5 deaths are blamed on water and sanitation issues.
Effective sanitation and access to clean water can greatly decrease the number of Liberians who need medical care due to unsafe water conditions as well as improve the quality of life and health of all Liberians. With sanitation and access to proper bathrooms, diarrhea and similar issues caused by unclean water would decrease, which allow health workers to focus on other serious or life-threatening diseases and symptoms.
Efforts to improve water, sanitation, and hygiene interact with each other to boost overall health. Access to sanitation, such as latrines in communities, prevents drinking water contaminated from human waste and reduces infections. Frequent hand-washing with soap and the ability to safely store drinking water are low-tech but high-impact public health practices. Implementing such low-tech changes in both rural and urban areas can create far-reaching, long-term improvements.