Sanniquellie – Community leaders in the Gbehlay-Geh health district of Nimba County are sweating over the drawdown of a USAID-funded project that was helping the communities have access to water and sanitation, community health services and promoting women rights.
Report By: Joseph Solo, Jr., LMD Responsible Health Reporting Fellow
The residents say the closure of the project will deal them a major blow by posing serious setback for community development.
The Partnership for Advancing Community Based Services (PACS) project has provided support for the Nimba County Health Team in promoting health services in the county. The support included the construction of 10 hand pumps, which provided safe drinking water for over 4,000 residents.
Town Chief Dahntaye Dahn and other community leaders in the PACS-USAID project communities are worried that community members might likely return to drinking from streams instead of the hand pumps that were built by the project for the town.
“We’re crying on the government to convince PACS to come back or they should look for another NGO to come help us,” said Chief Dahn, who is also worried that some of the hand pumps are now malfunctioning and with the absence of the NGO there will be more challenges.
“PACS used to help us repair those hand pumps whenever they were down. But since the NGO left, seven of the hand pumps are down and we the community dwellers don’t have the materials to repair the damaged hand pumps. Our citizens were trained to repair the hand pumps but no materials to do the repair.”
Chief Dahn said there have been several cases of waterborne diseases which were not prevalent when the USAID-funded NGO was present in their communities.
He continue: “When PACS was here, our children and the older people were not experiencing those sicknesses like running stomach and dysentery because they used to give us Water Guide that we used to put in our drinking water that we can draw from the hand pump. But since they left, no more Water Guide and the hand pumps are spoiling one by one, I am afraid that our people will start getting sick again”.
The Town Chief is also concerned that Community Health Assistants recruited, trained and contracted by PACS-USAID may not be placed on the Ministry of Health pay roll, something he said might obstruct the effective tracking of diseases in the communities.
Like Chief Dahn, Lee Danno, who is the Nimba County Health Promotion Focal Person, is also “sadden” by the closure of the project and he is concerned about the gap that has been created.
“This has challenged us to continue to look out there for partnerships that will sustain the gains made by USAID-PACS, knowing that we have challenges within our country’s health sector,” he said.
The Nimba County Health Promotion Focal Person then called on the communities to effectively and efficiently utilize the skills acquired to protect themselves from the outbreak of diseases in their respective communities.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Superintendent for Development of Nimba County Mr. Railey G. Myers have expressed gratitude to PACS for its interventions.
“If the community people will use the knowledge acquired adequately, Nimba County will be disease free in Liberia,” Mr. Myers said during a program marking the close of the project.
“I am therefore calling on all of the Community Health Assistants, community health services supervisors and the general community health volunteers to continue to impact their respective communities with the skills they have gained from the project so that our county will boast of healthy environment and people”.
Recently, PACS announced the drawdown of its activities in Nimba County, highlighting the training of over 450 young Community Health Volunteers. The project covered the six health districts of the county, enhancing community members’ capacity in tackling curable diseases, set up surveillance against strange diseases like COVID-19, improve the WASH system of communities and promote women and children right to health services.
In its four-year project, the NGO also strengthened and gave technical support to Ministries of Public Works, Health, Gender, Children and Social Protection, and several civil society organizations.
Speaking during the program, the Nimba County Coordinator of PACS, Patricia Myers-Koung, said the project made significant impact on the communities.
Said Madam Koung: “It is an undeniable fact that the American people will be happy to know that their money was used for the intended purpose if our community people continue to use some of those ideas that we taught them during the time we were in the county. This can even help to bring more initiatives; because when people’s finances and efforts are appreciated, they would want to do more”.
However, she regretted the closure of the project but hailed the people of Nimba County for being “receptive and working with you was an experiential process that would always be appreciated by me and my team as we say ‘goodbye’ today”.