Waking up to shit

An international emergency, killing millions every year from among the 2.6 bn people worldwide who dont have access to toilets. The story here in The Guardian, that of Liberia and its sanitation champion, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, none other than the President herself.

She has no doubt how critical sanitation is…

…Half the hospital beds in sub-Saharan Africa are filled with people suffering the consequences of bad sanitation. But, of course, the president sees endless statistics. Only when she looked into why so many Liberian women were dying in childbirth, and why children were dying of something as banal as the squits, did she realise “there is a relationship with water and sanitation. I needed to understand why that was so, and partly it’s because people don’t have access to clean water. That was an eye-opener for us.”

…and is well aware of how un-sexy the subject is –

…In Monrovia, ministers and NGOs hold a weekly crisis meeting about refugees, but not about the 18% of Liberians who die because they have no toilets or clean water.

Towards the end of our interview, I ask the president why that is…”The humanitarian system responds to these things that get sensational,” she says. “They want to be seen as responsive. The ordinary village, that no one is taking care of, that doesn’t come to mind.” And with that she takes her leave, to get back to the job of fixing her country, one latrine at a time.


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