World Hunger Relief farming
World Hunger Relief is a nonprofit organization that has dedicated itself to lessening food insecurity and malnutrition through community development and sustainable agriculture. Since its inception in 1976, the Waco, Texas-based nonprofit has educated individuals on sustainable agricultural development. Additionally, World Hunger Relief has international partnerships in Liberia and El Salvador. By using sustainable agriculture to alleviate food insecurity and malnutrition, the nonprofit is improving livelihoods and helping reduce poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world.

International Partnerships

World Hunger Relief trains interns from across the world how to produce and maintain a sustainable farm. The hands-on approach is especially beneficial for those that come from countries where subsistence farming is a popular occupation, such as Liberia. Job Carpenter is one intern from Liberia that visited the Waco, Texas farm in 2013 and used what he learned about sustainable agriculture systems for his current occupation.

Carpenter is the agricultural director at Ricks Institute, which is one of World Hunger Relief’s international partners. At Ricks Institute, Carpenter helped strengthen food security for the local school in Liberia and the surrounding community. Student health also increased through the efforts of Ricks Institute. Liberia, for reference, has a poverty rate of about 50 percent. More than 60 percent of Liberians are farmers, so the nonprofit’s outreach in Liberia potentially helps many locals who are malnourished and in poverty.

Local Work Goes Global

In addition to international endeavors, World Hunger Relief works locally in Waco. The 40-acre farm near Lacy Lakeview uses organic insecticides and fertilizers. Cover crops are another method to control pests, erosion and weeds. To complete the cycle, the farm uses compost from farm animals not only as fertilizer but also as a way to reduce diseases and pollution, improve the soil structure and increase soil nutrients. It was at the farm in Waco, Texas that Nicodemus Emus learned sustainable farming. Emus interned at the farm and brought his knowledge of sustainable agriculture back to Nairobi, Kenya. There, he began his own sustainable farm. So far, there have been more than 360 interns covering 20 countries at the World Hunger Relief farm.

The farm includes crops such as pumpkins, okra, beans, squash and cucumbers. It also teaches animal husbandry, particularly techniques in raising animals with little resources available. Goats, rabbits and hogs are among the animals on the farm. On working and living on the farm in a team of interns and various full-time members, Garden Manager Gala Gerber said, “We can see that we can make a difference together.”

The Ultimate Goal

World Hunger Relief continues to achieve its goals of alleviating food insecurity and malnutrition through its efforts on its farm and through international partnerships. One reason why world hunger has declined from 32.6 percent in 2000 to 22.2 percent in 2018 is the combined efforts of nonprofits, governments and other organizations. World hunger is declining, though people can do more. The United Nations proposed ending world hunger by 2030. More organizations are working together in order to accomplish this goal.

Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

Politics in Liberia
Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, a ranking that is largely due to the corrupt practices of its politicians. Economic mismanagement and various other corrupt practices plaguing politics in Liberia have sparked protests in the country as its residents become increasingly upset with a failure to tackle the situation. In order to understand the rise in civil unrest and dissatisfaction with the government, it is important to understand certain aspects of politics in Liberia that have collectively brought about its corrupt practices.

10 Facts About Politics in Liberia

  1. Previous Leadership: Liberia’s citizens previously revered their previous president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, but the people eventually accused her of nepotism. Despite taking an oath to tackle corruption in 2005, the country did not effectively deal with its corrupt politics during her time as president. Approximately 20 ministers experienced accusations of corruption during this time, but the country did not take action to convict them of any wrongdoing or investigate the claims against them.
  2. Liberia’s New President: George Weah is currently the president of Liberia; people originally expected that his administration would help the Liberian people overcome the persistent problem of corruption within their politics. However, during his relatively short period as president, inflation rates dramatically increased and economic growth has shrunk.
  3. A Shift in Power: The election that Weah won followed a period of war within Liberia. Liberia elected its previous president during a significant time of war, and the most recent election in 2017 was the first democratic transfer of power that the country observed in many years.
  4. Continued Corruption: The previous election in 2017 took place not only in a time of war but in a time that would have been fairly definitive for politics in Liberia. The continuation of corruption undermined the country’s newfound hope in the democratic transition of power. The state institutions remained weak as a result of the corrupt politics in Liberia and it remained clear that personal relationships within politics still heavily dictated the decision-making process.
  5. The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission: The country has made attempts in the past to tackle corruption but unfortunately has not been widely successful. Liberia implemented the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission in 2008 but it only led to two prosecutions between 2008 and 2017.
  6. Wage Discrepancies: Citizens in the nation typically earn less than $2 a day. The corrupt politics in Liberia ensure that its politicians receive compensation on a much larger scale. Legislators often pay themselves as much as $200,000 a year despite the persistent poverty that overtakes its citizens. Because of this, politics in Liberia tend to lean toward a means of personal promotion rather than true public service.
  7. Ebola’s Impact: The economy in the country took a large blow following an Ebola outbreak. While the outbreak was widespread and already difficult to assess and handle effectively, the politics in Liberia seemed to do more harm than good in the wake of the crisis. Its corrupt practices continued the growth of distrust in the government and politicians were unable to adopt a concerted effort to properly tackle and solve the crisis or stop the spreading.
  8. Lack of Protectionist Policies: Liberia, unfortunately, does not have a protectionist policy or law in place for whistleblowing accounts. As a result, authorities have arrested government employees that have pushed for greater transparency within the country’s politics. President Weah recently fired Konah Karmo who served as head of the secretariat for the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. As a replacement, Weah appointed a loyalist in order to further his own personal goals which sparked discontent and criticism from his constituents.
  9. Citizens Take Action: On a more uplifting note, citizens remain actively concerned and are attempting to tackle corruption and questionable politics in Liberia. Approximately two-thirds of the eligible population within the country can vote and this movement has allowed more women and first-time voters to become more involved with the political processes or, at the very least, the protests of corrupt practices.
  10. The Media vs. the Government: The relationship between the media and government has become increasingly tense in recent years as a result of the corrupt politics in Liberia. This relationship has grown so strained that the press union has recently brought attention to the intimidation and stifling practices that the press often face. Personal attacks of journalists and closures of local newspapers have taken place, further solidifying the corrupt politics in Liberia and making the situation more difficult to tackle and solve.

Liberia’s poverty and low economic growth closely link with its political practices. Despite a seemingly calm, democratic transition of power taking place just a few years ago, it seems that the current administration within the country has continued its corrupt practices rather than solving the problem internally. Liberian citizens are now taking a stance against these corrupt practices and attempting to influence their politicians to change their ways. The country can only make economic progress once it addresses its corrupt politics; once a leader comes into power that prioritizes truly challenging corruption or the current president changes his ways, the country will be on the road to progress and increased transparency.

Hannah Easley
Photo: Flickr

corruption in Liberia
Political issues have riddled Liberia, one of Africa’s poorest countries, since its declaration of independence from the United States in 1847. Despite its abundance in natural resources, Liberia continues to face the consequences of poverty, including corruption within its government institutions, epidemic outbreaks and violence. Here are 10 facts about corruption in Liberia.

10 Facts About Corruption in Liberia

  1. Corruption Perception Index: According to Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perception Index, Liberia ranks 91 out of the 183 countries and territories analyzed, with a score of 3.2 on the zero (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) scale. This is a tremendous improvement since the index score for Liberia in 2005, which put the country at 137 out of 158 countries and territories that Transparency International assessed. One can credit this to the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Program that emerged in 2005, which strictly adhered to practices of transparency and accountability, as well as working to embrace the role of international help in fighting corruption.
  2. Illegal Forestry: Money that came in to fuel weaponry supplies for the 14-year Liberian Civil War came from the illegal forestry of Liberia’s wilderness, which contributed to the lengthy duration of the war. The outcome resulted in 250,000 casualties and mass deforestation. However, over time, the government has taken necessary action to eradicate this practice such as enforcing reformed forest laws and canceling wartime contracts.
  3. Police Corruption: The Liberian National Police stands at 4,417 police officers, which is twice the size of its army. People have perceived the Liberian police institution as being corrupt due to a lack of professionalism, accountability and abuse of power. This is due to countless accounts from victims about police enforcing senseless brutality and partaking in bribery dealings. The United Nations Mission in Liberia has been working to address the need for better police governing by targeting poor police conduct and pursuing cases against high-ranking personnel in these security institutions.
  4. Female Genital Mutilation: As with most Western African countries, Liberia has not fallen short of falling into the practice of performing female genital mutilation on young girls. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf put a one-year ban on female genitalia mutilation. However, this ban has since come to an end and the government has not renewed it. The ban only condemned female genitalia mutilation to those under the age of 18, however, which means adults who gave consent could still receive it. The inauguration of the new president, George Weah, largely overshadowed this proving that Liberia still does not see women’s rights as a top priority.
  5. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: Liberia elected its first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in 2006 and she remained in office until 2018. Despite being a female in a government position of leadership, she did not strictly advocate for women’s rights during her presidency and did not consider herself a feminist. More so, just as with many other presidents before her, she was under suspicion for corruption and nepotism, such as when she elected her three sons into high-ranking government positions. This ultimately lead to her stepping down as president.
  6. Education Fraud: Education fraud has long been a serious issue in Liberia. Much of Liberia’s student population has taken shortcuts through bribery offerings in order to receive credentials for a degree. Socio-economic and political development may stall if there are no educated young people entering the Liberian workforce, as it will create a workforce that does not have the work ethic or skillset to uphold a stable democracy. In the efforts to uphold accountability, authorities are subjecting people guilty of such crimes to lawful punishment.
  7. The Anti-Same-Sex Marriage Bill: The LGBT community has been in a long battle against the Liberian government for human rights, but in 2012, things continued to escalate when the government passed the Anti-Same-Sex Marriage bill, which punishes people engaging in same-sex marriage and sentences offenders with up to five years in prison. Liberia has done little to outlaw the poor political treatment of LGBT people.
  8. The United Nations Mission in Liberia: The United Nations Mission in Liberia deployed in 2003 to provide Liberia with aid in security assistance and human rights advocacy, as the Liberian government and its people worked to strengthen their democracy, fully intending to leave in the future once Liberia was strong enough to stand on its own. However, according to the Secretary-General’s progress report in 2018, although the Liberian government has shown vast improvements in planning and enacting political affairs, it still requires aid to ensure that such institutions receive sufficient funds to keep them functioning effectively.
  9. Liberia’s GDP: Despite continuing economic stresses, Liberia’s GDP growth has taken a positive turn in the last couple of years. GDP growth increased by 0.7 percent in 2018 over a the span of a year due to major contributions from the agricultural, forestry and fishing industries to the economy. GDP rates should reach 4.8 percent in 2020, along with decreased inflation rates of 9.5 percent in 2020. The Liberian government’s continued corruption elimination tactics have been a major factor in decreasing crime and encouraging its people to work and actively engage in their country’s economic sustainability.
  10. The Domestic Resource Mobilization Initiative: Under the Domestic Resource Mobilization initiative, Liberia and the United States Agency for International Development have united to increase the number of institutions, which will help increase taxpayer education and facilitate positive engagement in Domestic Resource Mobilization affairs. In exchange, the Liberian government will distribute profits that it gains from this program to a multitude of agencies to put them towards education, health and sanitation, thus putting a steady end to corruption within Liberian communities.

Despite the challenges that these 10 facts about corruption in Liberia express, the country is on the path to eliminating corruption. With the help of Liberia’s people and continued ethical improvements within Liberia’s government system, there is still hope that the country will be able to climb out of poverty once and for all.

Lucia Elmi
Photo: United Nations

Save the State Protests

Liberia, or officially the Republic of Liberia, is a small country located on the western coast of Africa. Coming from a rich history of international involvement, the nation holds the title of the first African state to declare independence and, therefore, is the oldest African modern republic. The Save the State protests are currently gripping Liberia.

On June 7, 2019, in the capital city of Monrovia, ongoing tensions and disappointment in the current regime reached a head, resulting in the largest anti-government protest since the end of the civil war in 2003. This was the first of the Save the State protests, which a coalition of politicians, professionals, students and regular citizens called the Council of Patriots organized.

The main goal of the demonstration was to protest high inflation rates and governmental corruption. These two points of frustration have been amplified during the current presidential administration, as these were the two major campaign promises behind the 2018 election of President George Weah. However, these issues merely represent the breaking point of decades-long tensions and it is necessary to understand the socio-economic situation in Liberia which has caused so much unrest, especially as protests continue.

A Damaged Economy

Liberia has continued to feel the effects of two civil wars that took place between 1989 and 2003 and resulted in the death of a quarter of a million people. The wars crippled the Liberian economy by 90 percent and the economy has struggled to fully recover ever since. It suffered another blow with the outbreak of Ebola from 2014 to 2015 that claimed the lives of thousands.

After these crises, foreign aid flowed into the country to help in the restoration of the economy and offer assistance to those struggling in the aftermath. But, as international funding began to dissipate – most recently with the withdrawal of the U.N. peacekeeping mission in 2018 – the country has struggled to develop on its own.

The country continues to rank among the poorest nations in the world, according to the Central Intelligence Agency’s World Factbook. The fact that inflation reached a record high of 28.5 percent in 2018 and an International Monetary Fund growth rate projection of only 0.4 percent in 2019 compounds this.

Disillusioned Voters

The socio-economic situation of sustained, long-term poverty and poor living conditions due to rising prices and financial mismanagement have escalated since the election of President Weah. This is as a result of the lack of changes he made following his campaign promises. His connection to the people of Liberia as a former football star who achieved international acclaim initially spurred people’s excitement for his presidency.

However, hope for improvement has soured as prices continue to rise, fiscal growth continues to slow and the president’s personal wealth appears to be growing. This dissatisfaction brewed alongside a huge scandal where $102 million in new banknotes was allegedly missing. Although no one found evidence to support this claim in an investigation, people cited accuracy and completeness as major issues in the central bank’s records.

As 64 percent of Liberians continue to live below the poverty line and the people have planned more Save the State for the coming months, it is clear that long-term poverty engenders long-term instability and, therefore, a constant state of tension. This kind of unstable environment becomes a powder keg for tensions to erupt, making the future of these peaceful protests uncertain.

Despite President Weah’s opposition to the demands of the protestors thus far, their message remains clear: they want to save their state and improve the lives of their compatriots. It is a prime example of citizens wanting their voices be heard.

– Alexandra Schulman
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Child Labor in Liberia
Liberia, a country along the western coast of Africa, is Africa’s oldest republic and enjoyed relative stability until the civil war of 1989. This destructive civil war lasted from 1989 until 1997. Fighting, however, did not officially end until 2003. This war left the country without infrastructure and displaced approximately 300,000 people. Public services shut down and maternal and infant mortality rates increased, drastically affecting the number of people living in poverty. Below are the top 10 facts about child labor in Liberia everyone should know.

Top 10 Facts about Child Labor in Liberia:

  1. Approximately 16.6 percent of children in Liberia are employed. Of this 16.6 percent, 78.4 percent work in the agricultural field. Work in agriculture includes rubber and charcoal production and farming including the cocoa, cassava and coffee production. All of these industries are deemed hazardous by the U.S. Department of Labor.
  2. The minimum age for recruitment into the Armed Forces of Liberia is 18 years old. However, during the civil war and up until 2005, children were recruited to be a part of the army. In 2005, the Council on Foreign Relations estimated there were between 5,000 to 15,000 child soldiers in Liberia. During the civil war, former President Charles Taylor used children in his army who participated in rapes, murders, executions and dismemberments.
  3. Only 75.6 percent of children between the ages of 5 and 14 attend school. However, only 58.8 percent finish primary schooling. Longstanding consequences of the civil war and school closures during the 2015 Ebola outbreak have taken a toll on the Liberian education system. The cost of textbooks, uniforms and transportation all severely limit a child’s ability to attend school. Instead, children who do not attend school begin working.
  4. Children under the age of 15 are not legally allowed to work more than 2 hours of “light work” a day. Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to do hazardous work. However, a 2018 Human Rights Report from the U.S. State Department found that the Child Labor Commission did not enforce child labor laws effectively due to inadequate staffing and underfunding.
  5. The 2018 U.S. State Department Human Rights Report detailed the widespread child labor infractions found throughout every socio-economic sector of the country. In urban areas, children work as street vendors or tap rubber on private farms. Other children are involved in hazardous labor such as alluvial diamond and gold mining. Girls are also sent from their homes in rural areas to do domestic housework in the urban sector to raise money to send home to their families instead of receiving an education.
  6. Instate, the Liberian government-sponsors and participates in programs to eliminate and prevent child labor. For example, Winrock International donated $6.2 million to reduce child labor in the rubber sector. Through this program, 3,700 households were rewarded livelihood services, and 10,126 children were provided with education services.
  7. In July 2018, the Liberian government promised to eliminate child labor in Liberia by 2030. Through the Ministry of Labor, the country has stated that over 12 years they will take measures to eradicate forced labor, modern slavery and human trafficking. With the introduction of this plan, the country began a National Action Plan, demonstrating how they will address child labor and a Hazardous List, addressing which fields are not acceptable places for children.
  8. Only 25 percent of children are registered at childbirth, making their births unknown to the government. The lack of registration and identification documents makes children more susceptible to trafficking. Traffickers are often family members who promise poorer relatives a better life for their children. The children are often forced into street vending, domestic servitude or sex trafficking. In some poorer families, young girls are encouraged to participate in prostitution to supplement the family’s income.
  9. In June 2019, Verité, a nonprofit organization, partnered with Lawyers without Borders and Winrock International, to provide technical assistance to Liberia’s Ministry of Labor to reduce child labor. The CLEAR II project, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, aimed to improve the government’s response to labor, increase awareness of child labor and reduce the number of children exploited. The project held training sessions for government employees to improve their understanding of child labor and allow them to train other employees correctly.
  10. In 2019, the Liberian government investigated four traffickers, however, only one was prosecuted. This marks a decrease from the year before when the government investigated four traffickers and convicted all four. In a report, the U.S. Department of State stated that many officials did not consider internal trafficking, such as child domestic servitude, a crime but rather a community practice.

These top 10 facts about child labor in Liberia depict a country that is in need of humanitarian aid and more governmental funding. Child labor continues to be a problem in Liberia. However, the government is actively working to eradicate this problem and allow children the opportunity to get a formal education. Advocating for laws such as the Keeping Girls in School Act gives young girls the chance for a life without domestic servitude.

– Hayley Jellison
Photo: Unsplash

Disabilities in Liberia

Liberia is a West African country comprised of 4.98 million people. Exact statistics about disability in Liberia are out of date but according to a UNICEF study from 1997, 16 percent of the population has a disability. Of that 16 percent, 61 percent struggle with mobility, 24 percent are visually impaired, seven percent are deaf and eight percent have an intellectual or psychosocial disability. The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), estimated in 2014 that due to the devastating civil war that ended in 2003 and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, the population of people with disabilities in Liberia is likely closer to 20 percent.

Background

People with disabilities tend to be marginalized, stigmatized and excluded from education, skills training and income-generating opportunities. Because they have a limited voice in politics and society, their issues are not included in national policies, especially in poverty reduction initiatives causing their living conditions to continue to deteriorate in a “vicious cycle”. According to SIDA, 99 percent of people with disabilities in Liberia live in extreme poverty.

Liberia is taking steps to improve the lives of those living with disabilities. In 2012, the nation signed and ratified the U.N. Conventions on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities as well as other treaties that reference the rights of people with disabilities like the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child, the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. It also formed a national commission on disability and is reviewing its constitution to address the rights of people with disabilities. While the country is working to improve their rights and conditions, there is still much to be done. The lives and health of people with disabilities in Liberia can be improved in three key-ways: education, mental health and job opportunities.

Education

One important tool for lifting people out of poverty is education. The Liberian government has free and compulsory education for children but students with disabilities are often left behind. In 2009, even though an estimated 92,000 of 600,000 school-age children have disabilities, only four percent was allocated for children with disabilities. While there are schools for the visually impaired and the hearing impaired, they mostly reach a small urban population. Rural areas are lacking in resources for their students with disabilities.

There are, however, organizations working to improve access to education. AIFO-Liberia, for example, is working to ensure that people affected by leprosy can receive their educations, largely through a Community Based Rehabilitation strategy.

Mental Health

The Liberian people have been through much in the past 50 years. Approximately 40 percent of its citizens suffer from post-traumatic disorder from the civil war and there is only one practicing psychiatrist in the country. While not all people with disabilities have a mental illness, mental illness itself can become a disability. Those who have mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and depression are often stigmatized as witches.

The Carter Foundation is working to train 450 mental health professionals and create an anti-stigma campaign to improve understanding of mental illnesses. Meanwhile, AIFO-Liberia implemented a program that provides psychosocial support for those affected by the Ebola virus in addition to a destigmatizing campaign to improve mental health.

Job Opportunities

People with disabilities in Liberia are often excluded from job skills training, work, and income-generating opportunities. While the Liberian government and activists are working to put accommodation and anti-discrimination laws on the books, disability is often seen as divine retribution for a person’s misdeeds. Organizations like AIFO-Liberia have implemented a startup project that will increase job opportunities and improve social inclusiveness. Ending the social stigma, working to improve health care access and workplace accommodations, will help lift people with disabilities in Liberia out of poverty.

While the country has made great legislative strides in signing on to international commitments and in creating legislation, it still has a long way to go in improving the state of people with disabilities in Liberia. The stigma around these conditions prevents people with disabilities from having a voice and escaping extreme poverty. With the help of activists, NGO’s, and the Liberian government, the lives of people with disabilities can be improved.

– Katharine Hanifen
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about poverty in Liberia

Liberia is located in Western Africa with a population of 4.7 million people. Although there are efforts for improvement in the country, Liberia still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Liberia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Liberia

  1. Food Supply: According to the World Bank, 54 percent of Liberia’s population is living under the poverty line. In 2011, 83.7 percent of the population was living on less than $2.00 per day. The World Food Programme (WFP), which has been present in Liberia since 1968, and Liberia‘s government worked together on a plan to fight poverty by providing 87,139 students with meals and 3,600 girls from poor households with take-home rations. In addition, the WFP worked with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to assess the status, livelihood, social protection and food security of those living with HIV and tuberculosis.
  2. Education: The education system in Liberia is a work in progress due to a 14-year civil war and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which caused schools to close down. According to UNICEF, among most African countries, Liberia is behind in its education system and has one of the world’s highest rate of out-of-school children with 15 to 20 percent of 6- to 14-year-old kids not in school. In addition, only a third of preschoolers have access to early education learning programs, and 54 percent do not finish primary school. However, despite the statistics, in 2015 about 1.4 million children enrolled in pre-primary school, primary school and high school. According to Liberia’s Ministry of Education in 2015, 116 percent of students enrolled in early childhood education, 88 percent in primary school, 56 percent in junior high and 39 percent in senior high. The Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other organizations worked together to help repair or rebuild classrooms, train teachers, review curricula and create education policies and plans.
  3. Diseases: According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 causing 4,200 deaths, there are improvements being made for recovery. USAID and UNICEF partnered with the Liberian government to provide schools and teachers with 7,000 infection prevention and control kits. In addition, they also trained teachers on how to prevent infections and provide psychosocial support to students and families with Ebola.
  4. Malnutrition: Liberia is one of the 21 countries with the highest stunting levels in the world. One out of three children under the age of 5 years old is stunted or too short for their age because of a lack of proper nutrition. In addition, malnourished children are at a higher risk for death from diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of 5 are related to malnutrition.
  5. Water: In Liberia, about 90 percent of people under the age of 5 die because of this water crisis. Access to clean water could decrease infection, disease and death. The Last Well is an organization that is dedicated to providing Liberians with clean drinking water. This organization provided clean water to 4 million Liberians and counting.
  6. Sanitation: In rural areas, due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation services, about 42 percent of people must excrete out in the open. In addition, the lack of proper sanitation services results in the spread of diseases and causes students to miss days of school. However, the government of Liberia is working on improving these conditions through a WASH program that will increase safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, there was a strong need for WASH services in schools to prevent illnesses. From 2015 to 2016, 55 percent of 4,460 schools in Liberia did not have access to functional water supply, 43 percent did not have basic sanitization facilities and only 18 percent had permanent handwashing facilities. The WASH program reached about 50,763 people in five remote counties in Liberia that have low access to water. The program also built two pit toilets in two clinics and three wells at one clinic and rehabilitated six wells in six communities.
  7. Youth unemployment rates: According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the youth population is unemployed. The civil wars affected Liberia’s economy resulting in the widespread youth unemployment. About 35 percent of males and 42 percent of females are unable to find jobs due to lack of skills and training. According to the International Labour Organization, the future for African youth relies on the right policies and programs that will create employment opportunities.
  8. Immunization: According to the 2017 WHO-UNICEF Estimates of Immunization Coverage, 13 percent of children in Liberia have not taken the measles vaccine. The Liberian government and UNICEF worked together on a project to raise awareness on the importance of immunization for children to help prevent diseases. Every year UNICEF sends more than 3 million doses of routine vaccines and supplies for immunization campaigns.
  9. Literacy rates: According to UNESCO, the literacy rate for Liberia’s youth is 54.5 percent with males at 64.7 percent and females at 44 percent. A nonprofit organization called Alfalit International Liberia is an organization that aims to educate, empower and provide economic freedom to marginalized, disadvantaged and distressed groups of Liberia. Alfalit not only provides literacy and basic education but also offers scholarships to the youth of Liberia. This organization partnered with the Ministry of Education and others to create teaching and learning centers for the youth. Over the course of eight years, the program educated over 65,000 people, 85 percent of which are women, and trained 800 teachers.
  10. Child Labor: In Liberia, children work in dangerous environments such as in the production of rubber and the mining of gold and diamonds. About 78.4 percent of children work in agriculture, 4.2 percent in industry and 17.4 in services. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is an organization established in 2001, which assists with investigations of child labor cases and monitors child protection policies and the government’s efforts on agreements with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

These 10 facts about poverty in Liberia provide a snapshot of the current conditions in Liberia and areas that can be focused on for improvement. Despite the challenges Liberia faces due to poverty, there are efforts from various organizations to improve the country.  However, more needs to be done to tackle the issues that will require the intervention of political leaders. Surely, with an emphasis on education and policies to implement more opportunities for Liberians, poverty will decrease.

– Merna Ibrahim
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Liberia
As peace returned to Liberia, the focus has shifted to improve living conditions for 80 percent of the population who live below the poverty line. Already, progress can be seen in terms of primary school completion rates which increased from 21 percent in 2002 to 62 percent in 2008. But, there is much more work to be done. Here are just some of the organizations working to reduce poverty in Liberia

5 Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty in Liberia

  1. Canadian Organization for Development through Education (CODE)
    To increase educational resources, CODE has partnered with the WE-CARE Foundation (WCF) to provide professional training as well as support to local teachers. These mentorships are crafted with the help of publishers,  academics, teachers and authors. In addition, the two organizations are one of the only sources of locally-written literature for children.
  2. ActionAid Liberia
    ActionAid believes that empowering women and girls is critical to addressing poverty in Liberia. In efforts to achieve their goals, the organization implemented the Safe Cities Program in Gbarnga, Monrovia, Zwedru and Buchanan. This program is designed to address violence against women in public spaces such as universities and city streets. Safe Cities also supports advocacy meetings with governing bodies, executes local and national awareness campaigns about the program and works to improve the national taskforce against sexual and gender-based violence.
  3. Save the Children
    Save the Children began supporting Liberian children in 1991 to address the immediate needs of children impacted by the war. Since then, the organization has shifted focused on providing health care, protection and education to reduce poverty in Liberia. The organization’s health program is focused on training health workers, providing essential medication and reconstructing health care facilities. On the educational front, Save the Children’s Liberia Education Program is focused on strengthening the Ministry of Education and communities, thus providing kids an education in a safe and protective environment. Finally, to ensure the protection of the rights of children, Save the Children has also been advocating for the improvement of policy regarding alternative care and reuniting separated children.
  4. Friends of Liberia
    Friends of Liberia is working to reduce poverty in Liberia by expanding U.S.-led teacher training opportunities to K-3 rural teachers, as well as principals on how to best teach the nation’s curriculum while also improving principal to faculty collaboration. The organization is also involved in strengthening the country’s economic sector. Friends of Liberia aim to help the nation develop a middle class through training, modest funding and business development. The organization is also working to provide training opportunities to nurses and midwives in health care centers.
  5. Liberian Assistance Program (LAP)
    To increase educational opportunities for Liberian children, LAP established the Obama School to provide 300 children from kindergarten through ninth grade with an education. The school has 20 staff members, furnished classrooms with tables, bookshelves and textbooks, a cafeteria, electricity and bathrooms with a septic system installed. Although the school was forced to shut down due to the Ebola Crisis in 2014 and 2015, LAP continued to provide 16 staff members of the school a salary for six months. Funds were also provided for rice for the students and rice and soap for the village of Gbonkonimah.

Post-war Liberia is focused on economic growth, gender equality, education and health care.With the efforts of these nonprofit organizations, the government and local communities, Liberia will likely continue to make positive reforms for its people.

– Iris Goa
Photo: Flickr

Reducing Malaria in Liberia
The Republic of Liberia, located on the western coast of Africa and bordered by Sierra Leone and Guinea, has a population of 4.7 million people. About 50 percent of the population, or 2.35 million people, fall below the national poverty line, meaning that they have less than $2.00 a day on their disposal.

Liberia Health Care System

Liberia’s health care system suffered a lot after a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003. Almost 95 percent of doctors were lost or were forced out of the country after the war, leaving staff shortages throughout the nation, and hospitals and other health care services were confined to the capital city of Monrovia. Organizations such as Hospitals of Hope that donated $1.1 million worth of medical supplies to the JFK Hospital, helped Liberia’s health care system recover after the civil war.

Malaria in Liberia

Although Liberia’s health care system continues to improve, the civil war left the country susceptible to many communicable diseases, including HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, respiratory illnesses and malaria. Malaria is the number one cause of inpatient death in Liberia, accounting for 44 percent of all inpatient deaths among children. In 2016, the prevalence of malaria parasitemia in children under the age of 5 was on average 45 percent. This number is even higher in some areas in the country, reaching levels over 60 percent.

President’s Malaria Initiative

In order to reduce malaria in Liberia, USAID works with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to implement the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI). PMI first started in 2005 as a five-year program, intending to reduce malaria in Liberia by 50 percent. However, after 14 years and a 70 percent decrease in malaria, PMI created a new strategy for the period from 2015 to 2020, having in mind recent progress that was achieved. The current PMI strategy has a long-term goal of complete malaria elimination.

In Liberia, PMI supports four different malaria prevention and treatment methods: diagnosing and treating malaria, supplying citizens with Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs), preventing and managing malaria during pregnancy and monitoring malaria outbreaks. PMI also supports the Liberian Ministry of Health (MOH) after Ebola outbreaks.

When it comes to treating malaria in Liberia, every little detail counts. In April 2017, a PMI warehouse used to store medications and medical supplies caught on fire, so USAID quickly transferred these supplies to the remaining warehouse. The result was a consolidated, centralized warehouse that made security and transportation cheaper and easier. This is just one example of how USAID and PMI are logistically jointly working to reduce malaria in Liberia. The goal of PMI in the following years is to reduce malaria-related illnesses and deaths by another 50 percent. Other goals for the benchmark year 2020 include:

  • Increasing prompt diagnosis and effective treatment by 85 percent
  • Ensuring that 80 percent of the population is protected from malaria
  • Teaching up to 95 percent of the population to the preventive measures

Since 2003, Liberia has been slowly recovering from the detrimental civil wars, and episodes of malaria, an illness that is still a lingering issue in the country, have greatly decreased. With help from organizations and programs such as USAID and PMI, the country can continue to progress in this fight until malaria in Liberia is finally gone for good.

– Natalie Dell

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liberia
The Republic of Liberia is one of the poorest countries in the world, partly because of the 14-year long civil war that ended in 1997, which has continued to impact its population of 4.9 million people.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Liberia portray what life is like for Liberians.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liberia

  1. Poverty
    Half of Liberians live in abject poverty which means they are severely deprived of basic needs like food, clean water, shelter, sanitation and health care access.
  2. Corruption
    The 14-year civil war in Liberia caused a breakdown in law enforcement which has disproportionately affected the poor. However, in more recent years, there has been an increase in the number of professional arrests as well as a decline in reports of torture and mistreatment in detention centers. These improvements are in part due to the United Nations Mission in Liberia initiatives on law enforcement monitoring and training.
  3. Literacy Rates
    A recent report shows that roughly 64.7 percent of Liberians are literate, compared to 10 years ago when only 42 percent of the population could read and write. Though the literacy rate has increased, the gender gap continues to highlight the lack of educational opportunities for women. While 77 percent of Liberian men can read and write, only 54 percent of women are literate.
  4. Ebola
    Ebola virus disease, which is transmitted to people from animals and human-to-human, has killed more than 11,000 Liberians.  Though the country was declared Ebola-free in 2015, two people died of the disease a few weeks after the announcement. The outbreak has impacted crop production, income levels and food security as well. Poor living conditions, like access to clean water and adequate medical facilities, have also exacerbated the impact of this deadly virus. In 2018, the WHO reported that two out of a group of 16 people that received an experimental drug for the Ebola virus have recovered. This is a big step in the eradication of Ebola in Liberia.In 2017, Liberia experienced a deadly outbreak of meningococcal disease but this was contained within weeks with help from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  5. HIV/AIDS
    HIV/AIDS has also negatively affected the country. In 2016 alone, Liberia had 2,900 new HIV/AIDS infections added to the already 43,000 people living with the disease. And of the 43,000, only 19 percent were able to access antiretroviral treatment. The following year, the Liberia National Policy on Condoms was created to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as to increase awareness regarding safe sex practices.
  6. Clean Water Access
    Following the most recent Ebola outbreak, nonprofits such as Water Aid and Waves for Water campaigned to improve clean water access in Liberia. Today, two-thirds of Liberians have access to clean water sources. However, there is still work to be done as 3.7 million people still do not have a decent toilet.
  7. Food Supply
    Years after the war, 80 percent of Liberians continue to experience food insecurity. Though the country has a vast amount of farming land and plenty of natural resources, the war has had a lasting impact on productive assets. An increase in food prices also causes a threat to food supply. As a result of increased food prices, many have changed their diet and now eat less protein and vegetables. Not surprisingly this has led to higher rates of malnutrition especially among children under the age of five.
  8. Child Labor
    Poor living conditions in Liberian has forced many families to send their children to work instead of school. As of 2018, 21 percent of children are engaged in child labor. Organizations such as the Liberia National Police’s Women and Children Protection Section lack resources to enforce laws against child labor and many children continue to be forced to work in dangerous environments such as the production of rubber and mining.
  9. Road Infrastructure
    The President of Liberia promised the government would not get worse under his leadership. In doing so, he has become committed to the country’s development, especially as it relates to improving feeder roads. The President has noted that the development and growth from road connectivity will not only be safer but will also help to support economic activities as well.
  10. Slum Upgrading Unit
    The growing population of Liberia is creating a housing shortage, with many living in inadequate housing structures. To combat this issue, the government has begun a “pro-poor national agenda” that has resulted in the establishment of a Slum Upgrading Unit with Habitat for Humanity. This program supports slums and unsafe communities that constitute 70 percent of housing in the town of Monrovia. It also aims to facilitate the supplying of basic services and infrastructure.

These top 10 facts about living conditions in Liberia showcase progress in areas such as clean water access and addressing the Ebola virus. However, there remain areas for improvement as it relates to food security and health care.

 Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr