Child poverty in Liberia
Faced with two civil wars, Liberia has experienced years of poverty. With more than 80% of Liberians living in poverty, the country has been trying to revitalize its economy. Child poverty in Liberia is significant as well. Moreover, the mortality rate for children is high. In addition to this, Liberia ranks in the bottom 10 countries on the Human Development Index. The Human Development Index considers life expectancy, education and income.

Child Poverty in Liberia

According to Action Against Hunger, a stable environment for those living in Liberia has yet to emerge. Funding for healthcare facilities has significantly decreased. Liberian children often do not have proper access to education and healthcare and frequently face abuse or trafficking. As a result of this, many children live on the streets. Furthermore, 40% of children suffer from malnutrition and one in five do not receive proper nourishment. Meanwhile, about 84% of Liberians live below the international poverty line and make around $1.25 a day.

Uncertain Employment Positions

The Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) collected the following data. The overall information reveals that over 50% live in extreme poverty. In addition to this, 51.2% of families experience food shortages. This survey also shows that unemployment stands at 3.9%, meaning that Liberia has a low unemployment rate. However, the survey characterized around 79.5% of people as having uncertain employment positions whereas 79.9% of people had an informal form of employment.

While Liberia may have a low unemployment rate, many Liberians find it difficult to provide a stable life for their children and family as women average around 5.2 children. Due to small daily wages, women cannot meet children’s financial needs, reiterating the high mortality rate and low life expectancy that Liberian children experience. Due to a parent’s inability to care for a large family, children end up working at young ages.

Organizations Helping Liberian Children

For the past two decades, Save the Children has been addressing Liberian children that the civil war affected. This organization provides aid in areas such as healthcare and protection. It also assists children by providing them tools such as education and spearheading advocacy for child rights. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of many donors that helps Save the Children.

Action Aid is another organization that is assisting impoverished children in Liberia. Action Aid strives to attain social justice and equality and mitigate poverty. This group focuses on women and the younger generations to improve the quality of healthcare, education and children’s rights.

Many efforts have emerged to address the conditions in Liberia, including child poverty. The World Bank has provided $54 million International Development Association (IDA) credit to improve Liberia’s health services for women and children. The IFISH (Institutional Foundations to Improve Services for Health) project has spearheaded the expansion and operations of hospitals. An example is the Redemption Hospital located in Montserrado County. The multiple projects and initiatives should hopefully aid in the elimination of child poverty in Liberia.

– Nicole Sung
Photo: Flickr

Ongoing Harm, Female Genital Mutilation in LiberiaLiberia is one of three West African countries that has not yet made female genital mutation (FGM) illegal. FGM refers to the partial or complete removal of external female genitalia or other harm to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons. Considered a violation of the human rights of girls and women by U.N. Women Liberia, FGM has no health benefits and is extremely harmful.

Legal Activism

In 2018, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia signed the Domestic Violence bill, an executive order that banned FGM performed on girls younger than 18 years old, but the criminalization of FGM was limited to one year and expired in February 2019. The executive order did little to address the part community leaders play in perpetrating this crime. It also failed to change the immense social pressure placed on girls to undergo these treatments. For these reasons, female genital mutilation in Libera continues to be an issue.

International Pressure

The United Nations has been active in its role of fighting to end FGM globally. Due to the lack of policy regarding female genital mutilation in Liberia, Marie Goreth Nizigama, of U.N. Women Liberia, said, “50% of women and girls aged between 15-49 years” have been mutilated. On the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation, Chief Zanzan Karwo who is the leader of Liberia’s National Traditional Council expressed frustration, rebuking international groups that have sought to abolish female genital mutilation in Liberia. He believes that FGM prepares young women to become good wives. Despite pushback, the pressure to end female genital mutilation in Liberia continues. Williametta E. Saydee Tarr, the gender, children and social protection minister in Liberia, claims that plans are being pursued to make FGM permanently illegal.

Cultural Progress

One of the most important aspects in fighting female genital mutilation both in Liberia and globally is engaging cultural leaders and communities in ending the tradition. If cultural attitudes toward FGM fail to change, then progressing human rights for girls and women will significantly decline. As a result of seemingly insurmountable cultural and financial pressures, girls and women willingly subject themselves to mutilation; therefore, even criminalization of FGM cannot end the mutilation without traditions and perspectives changing as well.

Liberia’s fight to end FGM is not restricted to policymaking and criminalization. Yatta Fahnbulleh, owner of a large bush school in Tienii that performed FGM on more than 200 girls, decided to end her engagement in FGM despite its financial benefits. In 2019, Spotlight Initiative aided in the startup of the Alternate Economic Livelihood program. This program provides resources and education to former practitioners. This way they can generate a source of income after losing their livelihood. Providing access to education and financial alternatives is essential in garnering the support of communities who depend on the practice for survival.

Looking Ahead

It is vital that the United Nations continues to place pressure on Liberia despite leaders expressing attachment to the practice. female genital mutilation endangers women and often causes lifelong sustained harm so, the pressure is appropriate and necessary. Alongside the international attention to criminalize FGM, efforts to engage leaders in ending devastating practices are of the utmost importance. The willingness of people like Yatta Fahnbulleh to close her school gives hope that people are willing to end female genital mutilation with proper education, tools and resources to survive.

Hannah Brock
Photo: Flickr

World Hope International
World Hope International (WHI) is a Christian charity organization working to alleviate poverty by protecting communities. The organization began in 1996 in Virginia and has the core values of opportunity, hope and dignity. By 2019, WHI’s projects spanned 21 countries, awarded 1,835 child sponsorships and provided safe drinking water to 11,841 people.

World Hope International began focusing on COVID-19 related projects in February 2020 through the rehabilitation of wells in Liberia and the Enable the Children program in Sierra Leone. The Enable the Children (ETC) program gives therapy to children with disabilities and provides food for their families. On October 16, 2020, The Borgen Project spoke with Heather Hill, the Director of Communications and Marketing at WHI, about child sponsorships and aspects of the organization’s COVID-19 response.

Child Sponsorship Program

WHI funds an education-based child sponsorship program where people donate $35 a month to help the education of one child in need. During COVID-19, Hill noticed that the child sponsorship levels decreased. He told The Borgen Project that “We launched this campaign and we really talked about sponsorships.” As a result, the last months of 2020 picked up 200 new sponsorships. On top of this campaign, Hill explained how WHI’s partner, Wesleyan Church, launched “the initiative to try and get 1,000 children sponsored in the next few months with us.”

WHI’s COVID-19 Response in Haiti

World Hope International supports the La Gonave Wesleyan Hospital in Haiti. With the help of the Wesleyan church and private donors, the hospital received nearly $4 million worth of basic medical supplies in 2019. Founded over 50 years ago, the hospital still helps approximately 120,000 people in or near La Gonave. WHI’s current project asks for donations equating to $30,000 to transport approximately $2 million worth of medical materials to the location.

Another WHI project in La Gonave is the LB-20,000 water container that underwent installation in February 2019. This container produces approximately 20,000 gallons of clean water every day through solar-powered water farming techniques. The program was a collaboration between WHI, the GivePower Foundation and the West Indies Self Help (WISH) Organization to create clean water for the island. This collaboration continues to provide a clean water source for the entire island.

Other WHI Projects

WHI also helped create a new platform called the Get Support helpline. This platform allows communities to submit requests for various forms of relief during the quarantine period. It launched in late March 2020 and helps organizations connect with communities to better provide them with COVID-19 relief. This program allows people from quarantined communities to request relief packages, such as food or childcare. Volunteer organizations then respond to these requests.

One of WHI’s most important COVID-19 related projects focuses directly on rehabilitating the wells in Liberia. Pandemic restrictions placed numerous cross-country border and curfew challenges on drilling wells in the country. But, the team overcame these challenges by rehabilitating 15 wells instead of drilling new wells. After completing this goal marker by June 2020, WHI promptly set another 15-well marker to provide clean water for Liberians. These citizens would otherwise have to walk tens or hundreds of miles to find clean water.

Despite the COVID-19 disaster, World Hope International has not forgotten about its other ongoing projects. For example, the Strengthening Families and Communities program considers new ways to give Albanian children a place to pursue their interest in education while complying with pandemic restrictions.

True to its Goals

World Hope International is incorporating a variety of global projects to help communities survive the impact of COVID-19. Across the world, WHI’s projects have supported hospitals, rehabilitated wells and prepared a COVID-19 response. WHI’s projects have stayed true to their goals from the past to the present.

– Evan Winslow
Photo: Flickr

The Liberian Civil War
Freed American slaves founded the country of Liberia. It boasts a reputation as an African state that upholds many western values. English is Liberia’s official language, and the country modeled its constitution after the United States’ constitution and named its capital Monrovia after James Monroe. Additionally, Liberia literally means “Land of the Free.” For 130 years, this uniquely American country celebrated independence and economic power. Then in 1980, members of the Krahn ethnic group overthrew the governing body and executed the president and 13 of his aides. This violent coup d’état led to a civil war nearly a decade later, which lasted until 2003. Today, the country is working through the lasting effects of The Liberian Civil War.

The Current State

The Liberian Civil War subjected Liberia’s 4.61 million citizens to tremendous pain and terror. According to the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the war killed an estimated 250,000 people. Another 1 million experienced displacement from their homes and had to go abroad as refugees. For years, the United States government and other African nations have hosted these refugees. However, repatriation has proven to be difficult due to the instability of Liberia’s economy.

In 2019, the Human Development Index (HDI) ranked Liberia in the low human development category. This means that Liberians are losing out on “a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living,” according to the HDI’s basic dimensions of human development. Along with this, “Currently 38.4% of the population is food insecure, 25% of the population does not have access to drinking water and just 17% have access to basic health services.”

The 14-year civil war tested the nation and the livelihoods of many who suffered. Despite this, a glimmer of hope exists for the country. Work is underway to reverse the trends that the violent conflict set forth more than 40 years ago.

Action Against Hunger (AAH)

Food security, water accessibility and health services have proven to have experienced the most damage due to Liberia’s post-war economy. As a result, aid has been mainly targeting these sectors. NGOs, IGOs and the Liberian government have each worked to improve the lives of Liberian citizens.

In the fight against food insecurity, Action Against Hunger (AAH) has greatly impacted Liberia. In 2019, AAH’s team in Liberia reached 301,507 people through screenings and treating malnutrition. AAH has also partnered with Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance in Liberia to further its work. AAH advocates on the local and national levels for more support to improve general nutrition statuses all around the nation.

Water Accessibility

Water accessibility is another struggle throughout the country. After the war, Liberia’s new government developed a program called WASH. The intent of the program was to improve water quality, sanitation and general hygiene. USAID—the largest donor to the WASH sector—focuses on and addresses the infrastructure surrounding accessibility and sanitation. The program is also expanding services to both rural and urban communities. As a result, more than 353,000 new people have access to improved drinking water and nearly 154,000 have access to improved sanitation.

Malaria and Ebola

Following these fronts, general health services in Libera have exhibited positive growth. The Ebola outbreak that ravaged sub-Saharan Africa put Liberia’s health system to the test and cracks began to show. In the wake of the epidemic, the CDC expanded its focus beyond malaria intervention by investing in stronger “laboratory, surveillance, emergency management and workforce capacities to respond to disease outbreaks in support of the Global Health Security Agenda.” The CDC also teamed up with Riders for Health in the fight against Ebola. Since 2015, the partnership has transported over 300 relay stations to help rapid diagnosis of the disease. The country has not fully recovered from The Liberian Civil War but these organizations are striving to help it meet that goal.

Looking Ahead

Years of devastation due to war shook the country’s institutions to the core. But as time progresses, the improvements within Liberia are unmistakable. Efforts by NGOs, IGOs and the Liberian government alike provide hope for a recovered Liberian economy. Sustained efforts will allow Liberia to put its civil war in the past.

Matthew Hayden
Photo: Flickr

Living Conditions in LiberiaLiberia is located along the western coast of Africa’s rough and diverse terrain. The country experienced peace and stability until 1989 when a rebellion ensued. The Civil War in Liberia then persisted until 2003. As a result, high poverty rates and unstable living conditions became too common in Liberia.

Living Conditions in Liberia

According to the World Bank, approximately 54% of Liberia’s population lived below the poverty line in 2014. More than 2.1 million Liberians were unable to obtain basic necessities between January and August 2014. Today, 20% of the population lives in extreme poverty.

The number of those living in extreme poverty within urban and rural areas is the same, which is unusual. According to the report, the primary reason why urban areas have such high levels of poverty is that homeowners are unable to afford basic necessities such as food and electricity.

Furthermore, Liberia faces disheartening statistics common in impoverished countries. The nation has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world, along with many children at risk of death from preventable illnesses like malaria.  Life expectancy, education and income are ranked extremely low on a worldwide scale. The nation also has the world’s third-highest unemployment rate.

ChildFund

The ChildFund organization is one working to help improve living conditions in Liberia. Through the support of donors, the organization distributed mosquito nets to more than 477,000 people across the nation. Years of war forced children to forfeit education and serve Liberia. However, ChildFund offers these former child soldiers educational opportunities. The Community Education and Investment Project aims to provide children the opportunity to enroll in schools. Thus far, ChildFund has supplied more than 75,000 books to 110 schools across Liberia.

ChildFund works to empower Liberians and provide them with resources to rebuild their lives. The organization has constructed early childhood development centers, community healthcare facilities and centers for women. Though living conditions in Liberia are less than favorable, ChildFund’s efforts are making a substantial difference.

Liberian Agriculture Project

According to the World Bank’s Country Economist Daniel K. Boakye, improving agriculture will help bring Liberia out of poverty. Increased food growth and therefore increased sales will stimulate the rural communities while providing urban areas with much-needed agricultural products. One organization tackling agriculture in Liberia is the Liberian Agriculture Project.

The Liberian Agriculture Project works to support small-scale farmers of fruit crops such as pineapples and bananas in Liberia. The organization is involved in the growing and handling of sales for rural farmers. Currently, the project is working toward getting specialty products into the seven main food markets in the capital of Monrovia, Liberia. Additionally, making the transition from subsistence farming to commercialized agriculture is another goal.

Although the Civil War ended years ago, living conditions in Liberia continue to be affected by ongoing conflict and tensions. The stress of high unemployment rates, food shortages and limited access to healthcare still affect the average Liberian family. However, efforts put forth by nonprofit organizations and charities like ChildFund and the Liberian Agricultural Project are taking the right steps to help bring Liberia out of poverty.

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in LiberiaExtreme poverty is a persistent challenge in the West African Nation of Liberia, where people continue to feel the after-effects of a 14-year civil war and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The World Bank estimates that 54% of Liberians live on less than $2 per day and 59% of eligible children attend school. Despite these realities, the future has promise: the growing Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) is working tirelessly to empower children and to target poverty in this country.

The History of LYO

In 2018, Julie McGhee, a musician from Canton, MI, formed the Liberian Youth Orchestra (LYO) string program. The program runs at Heart of Grace School, in Lower Johnsonville, just outside Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. McGhee recalls that she had traveled to Liberia on three prior mission trips before she visited any schools. When she visited Heart of Grace School in 2016, she discovered there were no developed music programs. McGhee states, “Some schools had choirs, but that really was the extent of music education in Liberia.”

The path to securing the LYO was quite difficult, requiring took two years of planning, securing donations, and overcoming major obstacles. For example, Liberian customs held LYO’s donated string instruments in customs for five months, delaying the start of the program. As a last resort, McGhee emailed Dr. Jewel Howard-Taylor, a senator who would eventually become Liberia’s vice president. Dr. Howard-Taylor was able to free the trapped shipment from customs, and in November 2018, the LYO officially launched. McGhee traveled to Liberia again and spent six weeks conducting a string orchestra camp at Heart of Grace School. She has continued LYO’s impact by regularly teaching lessons via video call from her home in Michigan, as well as intermittently traveling to Liberia. Meanwhile, McGhee’s teaching assistant, a young Liberian man named McGill Kowula, handles on-the-ground operations.

LYO’S Impact on Children

LYO has quickly become a source of pride in the community, as involvement in the orchestra is helping children learn to read. Literacy is a requirement to enter the LYO, motivating children to study and to work hard to enter the program. In 2020, 12 prospective orchestra members learned to read and obtained acceptance into LYO.

Several of LYO’s 43 string students have experienced other dramatic academic successes after becoming members of LYO, McGhee said. One such student was Mary, who began formal education in 2016 at the age of 11 but failed her first year. She transferred to Heart of Grace School in 2017, where she began playing in the LYO the following year. After involvement in the orchestra, Mary not only became a better student but jumped two grade levels. McGhee interviewed each student at the beginning of the string program and again a year after it started. According to McGhee, “I noticed that by the second interview, Mary told her story in a completely different way. She said, ‘I played my violin in front of the president, and that’s something no one in my family has ever done.’

LYO Needs Sustained Support to End Poverty in Liberia

State schools in Liberia are available at no cost, but many families prefer private schools. Unfortunately, 25% of young Liberian children report sexual abuse by a staff member. Private schools are often thought to be safer. However, the high rate of poverty in Liberia means that many families may struggle to afford private school fees, which are equivalent to about $100 per year. As a result, LYO students often receive sponsorship to stay in school, which may come through private donations or through other means. For example, the Jewels Starfish Foundation (JSF) is a female empowerment organization, run by Vice President Howard-Taylor, that sponsors education for girls grades 7-12. JSF currently pays tuition for 11 girls at Heart of Grace School.

Though McGhee is hopeful that she will be able to start a youth orchestra at another school in Liberia, LYO needs $44 per month per student to cover operational fees, and the current chapter of the orchestra has not received enough funding for the 2020/2021 school year. According to McGhee, LYO can benefit greatly from sustained monthly giving, though any financial gift is appreciated. Donations large and small will help LYO to continue its work and to reduce poverty in Liberia.

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

CBT Eliminating ViolenceAlthough providing for basic needs helps break the cycle of poverty, consider those who have already been affected by unstable conditions. How do we help them? What effect do they have on future generations? How do we break the cycle of crime and violence? These questions plague Liberia. However, one answer comes from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) eliminating violence in Liberia.

What Is CBT?

According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT understands that complications in our psychological makeup result from learned behavior and thought processes.

People treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving their self-confidence, adopting effective coping mechanisms and altering harmful patterns of thinking. Clients also exercise modifications in habits, such as confronting rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, they practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios that they may find challenging.

One of the distinguishing factors of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the client’s life. Although this method takes a person’s past into account, it aims to create effective techniques that deal with the client’s present issues.

The Situation in Liberia

The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) Liberia 2020 Crime and Safety Report states that violent robberies and home invasions have increased. The Council also reports that “[s]exual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” Simultaneously, Liberia also faces a rise in social upheaval due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.

As urban poverty surges in Liberian cities, so has homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure. Impoverished citizens face a lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all have the hardest impacts on the poor. Overall, these unstable environments catalyze the high rates of crime and violence, especially among young Liberian men.

CBT Eliminating Violence in Liberia

A study in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, revealed the benefits of CBT eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom were at risk for crime and violence. The men were placed in one of four different groups. These included receiving only therapy, only cash,  both therapy and cash and nothing at all. The cash provided enough to start a small business. As such, it was an incentive for participation.

Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, and much of participants’ objectionable behavior decreased. However, the men who received both therapy and cash saw the longest lasting results. These men could practice what they learned in therapy while feeling like a “normal” member of society. Providing them with means, motive and opportunity helped improve their lives and their place in their communities.

CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. However, it does contribute to progressive change. It also highlights the importance of the long-lasting and widespread measures that can help communities plagued by violence.

Amy Schlagel
Photo: Flickr

Liberia's Water Crisis
Insufficient access to clean water sources is one of the primary issues that developing countries are facing today, particularly in Africa. Without clean drinking water, people in these countries turn to unsafe secondary sources which can spread disease and promote unhealthy living conditions. Particularly during COVID-19, access to reliable drinking water has become more critical than ever. Liberia’s water crisis is an example of why safe water sources are so important.

Causes of Water Insecurity in Liberia

Situated on the coast of West Africa between the Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, Liberia is a relatively small country with a population of just over 5 million people. It is Africa’s oldest republic, declaring its independence and drafting a constitution that it modeled on that of the United States in 1847. It is a tropical country with ample water sources, but several wars and disasters are to blame for the country’s lack of water purification systems and a limited ability to transport those resources.

Two brutal civil wars, first from 1989-1997 and again from 1999-2003, severely damaged Liberia’s infrastructure and nearly destroyed its economy. The country experienced a subsequent period of economic growth but lost much of its progress during the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-2015. This outbreak caused the death of over 4,800 Liberians, causing the country to struggle in rebuilding its economy and infrastructure ever since. Liberia now relies heavily on international organizations and foreign aid, especially in securing potable water.

Combating the water crisis in Liberia is an undoubtedly daunting task. For example, 3.7 million Liberians or eight in 10 peopledo not have access to a functioning toilet. This deficiency forces citizens to relieve themselves outside in groundwater sources, which quickly become contaminated and allow for faster disease transmission. Ebola spread throughout the country as rapidly as it did because of the scarcity of clean toilets, which fostered diseases such as diarrhea. Diarrhea is the second leading cause of death in children in Liberia, with over 700 children under the age of 5 dying each year due to the disease.

In addition to damaging people’s health, Liberia’s water crisis reaches into other aspects of society such as education. Many children remain at home to help around the house, particularly with water retrieval, instead of attending school. For those who do go to school, the shortage of proper toilet facilities in classrooms can result in disease spread and has contributed to the country’s ever-increasing dropout rate. While the water crisis is widespread and threatens to grow with the rise of COVID-19, several organizations are collaborating with the Liberian government to rebuild the country’s infrastructure and provide clean water to those who need it most. Here are three organizations providing clean water in Liberia.

3 Organizations Providing Clean Water in Liberia

  1. UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the most prominent organization combating Liberia’s water crisis. UNICEF has been working with the Liberian government to construct water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) systems in rural areas with extremely limited access to clean water, as well as schools and hospitals. These low-cost, high-quality centers are key to increasing nationwide hygiene and personal health. As of 2017, nearly 65% of all Liberian WASH systems were functioning properly and serving the country’s citizens, up from just 53% in 2011.
  2. Charity: Water: Charity: Water is a nonprofit organization focused on the global water crisis as a whole, and has an operation in Liberia. In Liberia, Charity: Water is working to restore an aging water-transporting infrastructure that has either experienced destruction or simply not received repair since the last civil war. In addition, the program educates communities on maintaining personal hygiene and teaches locals how to keep these water projects operational.
  3. Face Africa: Face Africa is another nonprofit organization that aims to bring clean and safe drinking water to developing countries, but with a tighter regional focus on Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the start of its mission in Liberia, the organization has completed 50 WASH projects in the country’s rural areas and brought clean drinking water to over 25,000 people. Similar to Charity: Water, Face Africa focuses on ensuring that pre-existing water projects in Liberia are functioning properly and serving their communities. Additionally, the organization is building its own WASH projects in the country.

While combating Liberia’s water crisis is no easy feat, UNICEF, Charity: Water and Face Africa are all doing their part to help end the issue. As Liberia’s economy grows and its ability to rebuild its failing infrastructure strengthens, the country will better able to fight off future water crises.

– Alexander Poran
Photo: Flickr

homelessness in liberia
Liberia is a country on the coast of West Africa with a population of about 4.61 million people. Around 1.3 million people live in extreme poverty—a classification that food insecurity and no access to shelter characterize. In the urban population, about 65.7% of the people live in slums, while the rural population makes up 75% of the poverty-stricken population. Many of the rural homes consist of a thatch roof with mud walls, providing little security to families. Here is some information about homelessness in Liberia.

Causes of Homelessness in Liberia

As one of the least developed countries in the world, economic and national instability are the main causes of homelessness in Liberia. Liberia struggled with 14 years of civil wars, beginning in 1989 and ending in 2003. The first of the two civil wars began in 1989 after Charles Taylor established the National Patriotic Front of Liberia and set out to overthrow President Samuel Doe’s administration. Taylor recruited thousands of children to fight as soldiers and was responsible for the massacres of many Liberians. He eventually murdered Samuel Doe and took his seat as president in 1997, thus ending the first civil war.

Shortly after, in 2000, LURD, or Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, began its militant attack on Taylor’s administration, which, in retaliation, formed the Revolutionary United Front. As LURD continued its campaign through Liberia, Movement for Democracy in Liberia, or MODEL, became a predominant force. It also set out to challenge Taylor’s administration. Collectively, the movements recruited about 15,000 children and about 200,000 people died.

President John Kufuor of Ghana, who was also the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), organized a peace convention to reconcile the violence in Liberia. In July 2003, LURD declared a ceasefire and Taylor resigned and fled to Nigeria. The Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), facilitated by ECOWAS, established a new election for Liberia in 2005 and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took office to lead a newly peaceful Liberia.

The Aftermath of the Civil Wars

When the wars began, Liberis had a population of about 2.1 million people. Over the course of the conflicts, fear and extreme violence caused about 780,000 Liberians to become refugees, and 500,000 became internally displaced. These displacements resulted in camps for families to stay in. These camps then served as recruiting grounds for young children to fight in the war. Those who did not feel protected by the government fled to nearby countries and many abandoned their villages to avoid an attack. By 1990, displacement had affected 50% of Liberia’s population, with women and children making up 80% of the displaced.

Since the end of the civil wars, the government has given little acknowledgment to the issue of homelessness in Liberia. In the Presence of Absence. Today, data estimates that about 400,00 Liberians returned to their villages after fleeing war, and many struggled to find permanent homes. With an unemployment rate of 80%, orphaned child soldiers and a lack of benefit programs from the national government, there has been limited improvement in the housing conditions of Liberia.

Homelessness and Disease

In 2014, Liberia recorded some of the highest Ebola virus case numbers in the world. By the time Liberia declared itself Ebola-free, the CDC recorded 10,678 cases and 4,810 deaths. As a result, 5,900 Liberian children lost one or both parents, leaving many with no option but to live on the streets. Housing also became difficult for those who were on the frontlines of the Ebola fight; landlords, relatives and foster homes often pushed away children and volunteers who came in contact with the virus. Fear of Ebola treatment centers and their occupants has created a stigma against survivors. Consequently, Liberians often find themselves without work or shelter and 70% of the urban population lives in the slums.

Following the outbreak, the government provided very little aid to help Liberians rebuild their lives. As a result, many children who lost their parents during the outbreak resorted to sleeping on the streets. In Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, children often sleep in the tombs in the cemetery, as they have nowhere else to go, thus creating their label of “cemetery children.”

Nonprofits Making Change in Liberia

Despite the lack of aid that the government provides, many programs from abroad have begun work in Liberia. The current president, George Weah, also championed a new initiative. In 2010, Shelter for Life, a nonprofit development organization, built 1,300 temporary refugee shelters and 10 community buildings. Shelter for Life also provided micro-loans to struggling farmers in order to help rebuild and jumpstart the community.

Shelter Afrique, the Liberian National Housing Authority and President Weah signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 to provide affordable housing, with facilities, to Liberian citizens. The pro-poor housing initiative will create more opportunities for Liberians to buy and retain homes. The initiative creates more dwellings on the lower end of the market, increasing affordability to combat homelessness. Data shows that Liberia has a housing shortage of 512,000 units, emphasizing the need for more homes.

Homelessness in Liberia is beginning to be a priority for its government; however, Liberia can not accomplish this alone. Foreign aid from the United States will create homes for families and take orphaned children off the streets.

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and FragilityThe year 2020’s biennial World Bank Fragility Forum is a series of seminars and discussions about working to build peace and stability in conflict-ridden areas. It brings together policymakers and practitioners in many different sectors from around the world, including the government, to address poverty and fragility and use international aid to promote peace in fragile settings. The Forum exists in conjunction with the World Bank Strategy for Fragility, Conflict and Violence for 2020-2025 and focuses on fighting poverty as a means to eliminate conflict and violence in fragile settings, acknowledging and addressing the link between poverty and fragility.

What is Fragility?

There is no simple definition for a fragile setting or context since each fragile region is circumstantially unique. The Fragile States Index (FSI), though, says there are many common indicators that include state loss of physical control of territory or social legitimacy, loss of state monopoly on legitimate force, loss of connection to the international community and an inability to provide basic public services. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) also explains that there are common characteristics of fragile settings, like extreme poverty, authoritarian regimes, high rates of terrorism, high rates of armed conflict and short life expectancy. The majority of fragile settings currently exist in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Fragile States Index lists Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan as the three most fragile contexts in the world.

Poverty and Fragility

The World Bank explains that addressing poverty and fragility go hand-in-hand. While only 10% of the global population live in fragile contexts, more than two-thirds of the people around the globe who live in extreme poverty live in fragile contexts. Experts expect this figure to rise to 80% by 2030. Poverty and fragility exist in a sort of feedback loop, as it becomes more difficult to escape poverty in a fragile setting given poor living conditions and likely economic ruin, while poverty is also an initial driver of fragility. Global Washington reports that fragility hurts economic productivity – violent conflict caused a 12.4% decrease in economic activity in 2017 alone – and is the main driver of both global hunger and refugee crises.

Fragility Forum Highlights

Three lectures from the Forum in particular address key components of poverty and fragility by looking at case studies: the social and economic inclusion of refugees, the use of country platforms to increase the effectiveness of global aid and the effectiveness of existing economic programs in fragile contexts. These lectures were:

  1. Refugee Policies: Increasing Self-Reliance & Economic Inclusion in Protracted Crises – Around 80% of refugees today live in developing countries and, as Global Washington reports, the violence and conflict of a fragile region are the main drivers of forced migration. Lecturers in this session explained that aid to refugees and their host countries must address both the immediate needs of refugees with investment in basic needs like healthcare and in long-term, policy for economic and social inclusion of refugees in their host countries. Refugees currently do not have permission to work in 50% of host countries and refugee mobility is severely restricted across the globe. This makes refugees dependent on aid from international agencies like the U.N. Economic self-sufficiency for refugees shifts the responsibility from these international bodies to the host country and both enhances the living situation of refugees and develops the host country’s economy. The Senior Director of Fragility, Conflict and Violence at the World Bank Franck Bousquet explains in the lecture that the World Bank focuses largely on support to the host country and strengthening national systems through emergency response programs and using grants to incentivize host countries to include refugees in their economies.
  2. Reducing Fragility and Conflict: What We Are Learning from Impact Evaluations – This lecture looks at the impact of a wide range of interventions in fragile settings from behavioral studies on social interventions to how labor market programs and economic intervention can increase stability in fragile settings by creating a market opportunity for individuals through vocational training. One particular study in Liberia explored the claim that economic insecurity can encourage violent or criminal behaviors in individuals. The study also explored how giving impoverished Liberians agricultural training increased the employment and average wealth of the individuals in the study, the root connection between economic opportunity and criminal activity, large-scale questions about what motivates violence and whether poverty causes criminality. The theory that underwent testing hypothesizes that increased economic returns to noncriminal activities will minimize the incidence of criminal activities by occupying individuals’ time, building social skills in youth and reducing grievances with poor economic opportunities. The study found that vocational training can decrease the time that individuals spend on illicit activities, but found little effect on individuals’ attitudes about democracy and violence.
  3. Revisiting Development Cooperation in the Hardest Places: The Case of Somalia – This session discussed “country platforms,” which the featured Center for Global Development (CGD) podcast defined as a “government-let coordinating body that brings together partners and stakeholders to define shared goals and coordinate development efforts in the country.” Places like Afghanistan and Somalia have utilized these country platforms, which are part of the World Bank’s Strategy for Fragility, Stability and Violence for 2020-2021, to streamline aid efforts by encouraging collaboration and joining local government and civic leaders with international donors to better implement international aid projects in fragile settings. Country platforms allow for more streamlined and effective flow from a donor to the recipient country, as evidenced by the organizational progress made in Somalia, where the U.S. invested over $400 million in aid in 2019; the country platform in Somalia has been developing clearer plans for development, humanitarianism and politics and shifting control of aid efforts into the hands of the Somali government to both increase aid efficiency and promote state legitimacy.

The World Bank Fragility Forum has made the link between poverty and fragility apparent. Hopefully, an increased understanding of how these two topics interlink will help eliminate poverty in fragile settings.

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia