Poor Sanitary Conditions at Harper General Market Poses Public Health Crisis

HARPER, Maryland – Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19 in Maryland, traders at the Harper General Market are calling for better sanitation to ensure the market is kept clean and safe.

The Liberia Marketing Association’s Maryland branch already collects fees from traders. Those fees are supposed to be used for the market’s upkeep; however, the facility remains in poor hygienic conditions.

Tete Luise, the superintendent of Harper General Market, told The Bush Chicken if the conditions are not addressed urgently, it could lead to health problems for the over 200 traders and their customers who frequent the market daily.

When the Coronavirus pandemic initially began to spread across the world, the World Health Organization issued guidance urging governments to promote better sanitation and waste management to contain the spread of the virus.

“The provision of safe water, sanitation and waste management, and hygienic conditions is essential for preventing and for protecting human health during all infectious disease outbreaks, including of coronavirus disease 2019,” the world health body said. “Ensuring evidenced-based and consistently applied WASH and waste management practices in communities, homes, schools, marketplaces, and healthcare facilities will help prevent human-to-human transmission of pathogens including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

Luise, the market superintendent, was more concerned about commonplace diseases such as malaria, cholera, and Lassa fever, which are triggered by unclean environments.

She called for the Liberia Marketing Association to do more to ensure a clean environment at the market, which is located on the banks of the Hoffman River, close to where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean.

“Let me quickly tell you – we the market women are suffering, and our lives are at risk because of the river,” she said. “Normally, when the rain falls, the river can overflow, and our sellers, mainly fish sellers, are the most victims.”

She worried that the unhygienic conditions were even worse for traders who came along with their children to sell. Some traders were now even migrating to other parts of the city to sell to avoid the unhygienic conditions.

Luise added that further calls to the Ministry of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other partners had not been heeded. Moreover, it has been difficult getting the Liberia Marketing Association to respond to concerns. The head of the organization in Maryland is currently suspended indefinitely by the national leadership, and he has not commented on the conditions at the market.

Yarwah Allison, who sells fish at the market, told reporters that traders have now refused to pay the L$20 (US$0.12) a day per person that should have been used to clean the market. She regularly visits the market with her two-year-old daughter, but warned she would have to quit selling to protect her child’s health.

“I will not mind looking for money and get sick to die,” Allison said. “I’d rather sit home or sell my fish in the community, but I can’t stand the bad odor from this dirt.”

Allison recommends a change in the leadership of LMA because the current crop of leaders does not care about the health of traders.

Henry N. Kolenky Jr. of Cape Rock radio in Harper contributed to this article. Featured photo by Henry N. Kolenky Jr.

George Momo

George K. Momo is also a correspondent of Liberia Broadcasting System and manager of Cape Rock Radio. He serves as acting president of the Maryland Press Association and the secretary-general of the South Eastern Journalist Association of Liberia. He is the Press Union of Liberia 2018 Human Rights Reporter award winner. George started his journalism career in Kakata at Atlantic Radio; he has over eight years working experience in community radio journalism. George is also a senior student of William V.S. Tubman University College of Education majoring in Early Childhood Education.

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