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Liberia: Digging Out Monrovia from the Waste of War

Last Updated: August 2009
Liberia: Digging Out Monrovia from the Waste of War


During years of prolonged civil conflict, Monrovia’s nearly one million residents lived without any formal garbage collection and disposal system.

Toxic blue haze from burning waste greeted the citizens of Liberia’s capital city every morning. Garbage choked the dilapidated drains and clogged sewers, causing flooding during the rainy season and creating breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other disease carriers.

People were forced to burn, bury or indiscriminately dump their rubbish to get by. Many communities resorted to using their refuse to reclaim land, filling swamps and extending riverbanks with exposed garbage.

Estimates of merely the most evident trash heaps around the city amounted to more than 70,000 tons of solid waste. This buildup took its toll on the health of people and the environment—riverways and drinking water sources were polluted, and disease and infection rates skyrocketed. In 2005 UNICEF reported more than 26,650 cases of cholera. Half the population was under the age of 14, born after onset of civil conflict, and had little experience with functioning government services or the role of civic responsibility in providing them.


Using IDA funds from a Supplemental Component to the Liberia Emergency Infrastructure Project added in October 2006, a campaign was launched to collect and safely dispose of Monrovia’s garbage. The effort began with an extensive cleanup of accumulated garbage piles by local contractors. A regular pickup system was then introduced under the supervision of the Monrovia City Corporation and a third-party engineer hired by the Ministry of Public Works to oversee technical operations. Local private contractors submitted bids to operate eight newly purchased municipal skip trucks for gathering refuse from 120 skip bins placed at community collection points throughout the city. Contractors also occasionally used their own vehicles to collect trash overflow around the containers.

To make sure that collected waste was properly disposed of, a three-tiered effort was begun. First, the project financed emergency work to fence off the previously uncontrolled dump site in the Fiamah neighborhood of central Monrovia and install drainage to capture the runoff from the solid waste. The site was capped (covered with a final layer of soil) and closed when it reached its full capacity. To ensure that collection continued without interruption, an interim landfill site was developed at Whein Town (within greater Monrovia). Finally, the project plans to fund environmental impact assessments and feasibility studies for a permanent landfill site.


The recently started collection service handles approximately 30 percent of daily waste generated in Monrovia. Since the project began, collection and disposal of nearly 125,000 tons of trash has transformed the look of the city and significantly improved environmental conditions for its residents.

- The Monrovia City Corporation is actively engaged in solid waste management.

- Television public service ads and radio jingles are on the airways informing people about the health and environmental risks of improper disposal and encouraging them to bring their waste to the collection points.


IDA, through the Liberia Emergency Infrastructure Project and the Emergency Infrastructure Project Supplemental Component (EIPSC), provided approximately US$10 million to improve solid waste management in Monrovia.

Next Steps

The Liberia Reconstruction Trust Fund (LRTF)—a multi-donor effort administered by the World Bank with resources provided by the Bank and the governments of Germany, Sweden, and Ireland—is providing US$18.4 million for a new solid waste management project to take up where the Emergency Infrastructure Project Supplemental Component (EIPSC) left off.

The Emergency Monrovia Urban Sanitation (EMUS) project will (i) support consolidation and expansion of solid-waste collection and disposal and (ii) help strengthen the municipal government’s capacity to administer revenues, manage finances and exercise technical oversight to carry out that task.

The goal is to increase collection and disposal of 45 percent of the city’s daily generated waste by December 2013, an increase of 15 percentage points from 2009. For long-term sustainability of the developing system, the government also must take steps to secure additional resources for financing solid-waste management.

Finally, the interim landfill developed under the recently expired IDA-financed Supplemental Component will reach its holding capacity within 5–7 years. Thus the government must move forward quickly to implement its plans for a long-term or permanent landfill.

Learn More

Emergency Monrovia Urban Sanitation (2009–pending closing date of 2013)
Project Documents

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