On Wednesday, February 10, 2010, this paper ran a front page story under the caption-To Make Ends Meet: Liberian Children “Hustle”. The story, which was the outcome of a visit by this paper to Wein Town at Bernard Farm on Monday, February 8, 2010, was buttressed by the United Nations Mission in Liberia or UNMIL when it released its report on the Human Rights situation in the country.
UNMIL, in its report, emphasized that extreme level of poverty and high illiteracy rate, coupled with limited livelihood and economic opportunity have made children in post conflict Liberia vulnerable to all forms of exploitation.
The story highlighted how Wein Town Dump Site just few kilometers from the main Commercial District of Redlight in Paynesville continues to be a place where dozens of Liberian Children go daily to find means for survival. Liberian Children between the ages of 6 and 17 years, the story narrated, were seen tilling the garbage “hustling” for aluminum metals and other items usable for refurbishing and sale.
“My ma sen me to coam look for small, small things to go sell. She na wekking, ma pa na wekking. Da the only thing me and my brother them can do to get money to buy food every day,” remarked Opello Harris, age 12, one of the children, who was seen tilling the dumpsite for survival.
What is most risky for these children is that they go through the dump site “hustling” without feet wears and shirts. More so, these kids and other folks are exposed to health hazard owing to the danger the dumpsite poses. At times, some of them get injured in the process of trying to make ends meet and getting medication is difficult from them.
This is a serious concern that needs to claim the immediate attention of the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others that are involved in sanitary and health related matters.
Quite frankly, there is a need for the MCC, EPA and others to put in place proper mechanism aimed at ensuring that people, particularly children are prohibited from going to this dumpsite as well as other dumpsites in search of earning a living.
While we share the plight of those, who one way or the other depend on dumpsites for survival, we think that no matter what their health and that of their communities come first. There is a possibility that any of these children can been affected by a communicable that can endanger an entire community. It is often said that self preservation is the first law of nature and hence forth, our brothers and sister s, who go to dumpsites to seek survival, must realize that these areas are hazardous and detrimental to their livelihood.
On the other hand, we urge the government to make its much publicized Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) or Lift Liberia more practical. Our urge to the government is predicated on the successes it says it had scored in the PRS as well as improvement in the Liberian economy, but the reality seems far different amongst ordinary Liberians.
We believe the high unemployment rate in the country has contributed to the failure of most parents or guardians being unable to cater to their children, thereby leaving them with no other options but to make ends meet at dumpsites and other risky areas.