Advocacy and post-war institution building: the efforts of the Liberian WASH consortium

24 Nov 2022 by The Water Diplomat

Building water management institutions in a post-war setting can be a lengthy process. After the end of the Liberian civil war in 2003, the Liberia WASH consortium was established in 2007 in response to poor access to water and sanitation in the country, lack of coordination in the sector, lack of guiding policy frameworks and limited capacity. The consortium consisted of a number of international NGO’s: Action Against Hunger, Concern Worldwide, Oxfam International, Tearfund and Water Aid. The primary aim of the group was to work together to provide technical support to the government in providing basic WASH services in rural and urban Liberia. Liberia was at the time emerging from years of conflict, and access to basic services was at a very low level despite the abundant water resources of the country. Less than 25% of the population had access to safely managed water, less than 15% of the population had access to safely managed sanitation, and less than 5% of the population was using safe hygiene facilities. The public health consequences of this situation were evident: for example, waterborne and vector borne diseases led to diarrhoea being the cause of 19% of child mortality, and cholera outbreaks were frequent. The government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy aimed to double access to water and sanitation services by 2011, but many factors hampered the achievement of this objective including severe financing constraints, lack of sector coordination, and the absence of a strategy targeting the most vulnerable.

The Liberia WASH consortium obtained funding from DFID, ECHO and Irish aid in 2010 to deliver WASH services to vulnerable communities and to provide institutional strengthening. Ensuring sustained attention for WASH services was a challenge within the existing governance framework, and the NGO’s worked together to ensure that efforts were coordinated both at the policy level and at the level of service delivery. After a lengthy period of advocacy, a National WASH Commission was finally formed in 2017, providing an interface between government, donors, and the various NGO’s ensuring service delivery. The consortium also facilitated the establishment of a WASH legislative Caucus in the Liberian parliament. The National WASH Commission exists to this day, but it is not funded from the government side – other than staff salaries - and still requires support from the NGOs to maintain its functionality. From 2017 onwards, only Irish Aid remained as a funder of the programme, and currently the consortium is implementing a programme running from 2020 to 2024 with a budget of 4 million Euros. 

Under the current leadership of Action Against Hunger, meetings are being held with consortium members to develop a new strategy for the period 2023 to 2027. In the present context, donors have an integrated, intersectoral approach which link WASH to other issues such as health, nutrition, food security and livelihoods. Nevertheless, because of the existence and historical build-up of capacity by the consortium, the WASH consortium does form a point of entry for the delivery of a new, broader programme. The consortium is therefore developing a new strategy to guide its activities during the new phase and hopes to attract the attention of donors to the continuation of the work that has been done so far.