Poverty in LiberiaAs 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 LiberiaThe 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 LiberiaThe 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

Top 10 facts about life expectancy in LiberiaLiberia is an African nation that is considered to be the oldest republic in the continent. The country has a population of 4.6 million people out of which 5 percent is made up of decedents of freed American and Caribbean slaves who founded the state.

The history of the country was clouded when a brutal civil war that started in the 1990s resulted in over 250,000 deaths and caused many other to flee the country. A major factor that determines a country’s life expectancy is the level of poverty.

Therefore, the following top 10 facts about life expectancy in Liberia will look at the economic, political and social contexts surrounding life expectancy in Liberia.

Top 10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Liberia

  1. According to the data from 2018, life expectancy in the country is at 62 years for men and 63.9 years for women. This represents an increase that began in 2016 but still puts the country at 156th place in the world. However, this is a huge leap from the 192nd place that country previously held.
  2. One of the biggest hits to the nation’s economy in recent years that also continues to greatly affect the level of life expectancy was the devastating Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak that occurred in 2014.
  3. In 2018, there were reports of a new Ebola outbreak in northwestern parts of the country. This lead to the declaration of the outbreak by officials who claimed that this incident is a big risk to public health.
  4. The life expectancy of the country was affected not just by of the outbreaks of Ebola outbreaks but because other public health issues were consequently held in the back. The health system of the country was already seriously weakened during civil war years and its severity was beyond the country’s capacity.
  5. Moreover, the outbreak was detrimental to the country’s business sector as it resulted in significant businesses shutting down and the once-bustling markets now being short on some supplies. Food and fuel shortages are adding to the ongoing chaos in the country.
  6. The collapse of commodity prices and UNMIL recoil occurred in January 2018 as a result of anticipation of risk related to the political transition. These factors contributed more hurdles to Liberia’s fight against poverty and its efforts to improve life expectancy.
  7. The much-needed support for the nation came from organizations such as WHO, UNICEF, USAID as well as from other entities such as the United States government that helped in the aid of rebuilding country’s clinics and laboratories.
  8. The United States government also made a decision to increase the support given to the West African countries that were affected by the epidemic. This help can directly affect the fight against epidemic and result in the increase of life expectancy. The announcement by the United States government resulted in the immediate start in the construction of 17 new treatment facilities and training for 500 health care personnel every week.
  9. The new administration under President George M. Weah has been able to alleviate serious security issues and put government focus on a fight against poverty with an economic manifesto that is deemed pro-poor as it aims to support marginalized and vulnerable members of the population.
  10. Despite the challenges of recovering from a disease outbreak and its effect on the economy, the new leadership has an optimistic economic projection for the coming years and it plans to implement policy reforms in order to stimulate the economy and create stability.

Liberia has had some serious hurdles against its ability to initiate economic growth and sustainable development that affects key sectors such as health due to the effects of a brutal civil war and catastrophic outbreaks of Ebola. These issues affect the life expectancy in the country as well. However, the country has made some commendable efforts towards coping with these issues.

The new direction the nation has taken has a positive and ambitious goal to promote a fast and sustainable recovery for the country that will have a huge factor on the country moving up the life expectancy ranks.

– Bilen Kassi
Photo: Flickr

Global Mental IllnessMental illness receives far less attention than it should. Even though the data collected on global mental illness is minimal, it proves that mental diseases impose a functional hindrance on a stark percentage of the population. When not at full mental health, an individual cannot cope with the stresses of life nor make a productive contribution to their community. Therefore, providing effective and accessible treatment for mental illness is essential around the world.

Each organization listed here offers unique strategies to combat global mental illness. They range from small organizations with a specific focus to large organizations that devote only a part of their resources to mental health. Despite the varying sizes and contribution of each one, the continued efforts and successes of all of them still give an often ignored problem some much-needed attention and alleviation.

Strong Minds

The Strong Minds organization has had a promising impact on mental health despite being such a new and small program. Unlike organizations that tackle global mental illness by placing their incumbents throughout the world to cover multiple issues, Strong Minds has reserved its programs to African women with depression.

While this seems like a narrow focus, Strong Minds insists that their program can still have a major impact. Their website points to the statistics that 100 million people in Africa suffer from depression and women suffer at twice the rate of men. Suffering from depression makes women less productive and can cause further issues with physical health over time, which can, in turn, have an impact on the children of the person suffering.

Strong Minds uses a cost-effective method known as Group Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT-G), which it can easily teach to local professionals. It consists of an initial 12-week talk therapy session. The women who complete these therapy groups also have the option to create their own Peer Therapy Groups to help other members of their community.

Using the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) to evaluate their patients’ depression after the program, the organization found the results to be better than initially expected. Of the women who graduated from the program “between 94-97 percent” reported reduced symptoms of depression, and a third remained depression-free after six to eight months. With this success, Strong Minds hopes to continue to expand its program through additional connections with other programs in order to reach more women overall.

The Carter Center

While former president Jimmy Carter’s organization allocates a significant section of its healthcare resources towards physical diseases, it also has a commitment to mental health. Jimmy Carter’s wife and the center’s co-founder, Rosalynn Carter, manages The Mental Health Care Task Force and The National Advisory Council as well as The Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism. She also holds an annual symposium on mental health policies that gathers innovative thinkers in order to discuss and learn about a different topic each year.

Unlike an organization that creates mental health care programs or sends in doctors, The Carter Center focuses instead on spreading awareness and education about global mental illness. The task force partners itself with global health leaders in order to advocate for the need of such programs and to create policies that will alleviate mental illness. The fellowship has the task of reducing the stigma of mental illness by teaching journalists how to “more accurately and sensitively report information and influence peers and stakeholders to do the same”.

The Carter Center’s programs working in Liberia have had the most telling impact with the center and its partners training more than 240 mental health clinicians, some of whom have gone on to create programs of their own. It has also assisted Liberia’s Ministry of Health in the creation of a “five-year strategy and policy plan” to protect and promote the rights of mentally ill individuals.

The journalism fellowship has produced “more than 1,500 stories, documentaries and books”, which have garnered an Emmy, nominations for the Pulitzer Prize, and other awards. Many alumni have also reported a progress in the mental health policies at the local and state levels.

Doctors Without Borders

Founded in 1971, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works to provide global healthcare in more than 70 countries to individuals who need it most in times of crisis. Natural disasters, epidemics, refugee migrations and conflicts all fall within the typical events that doctors in the MSF work to alleviate. Along with the typical injuries and illnesses following a crisis, MSF acknowledged the need to also treat mental illness as part of their emergency work in 1998.

This work remains a challenge for the organization due to the complexity of both managing psychiatric medications and providing long-term care in areas of conflict and disaster. Nevertheless, the organization held “229,000 individual and 53,300 group counseling sessions” in 2016, which were often performed by local counselors trained by MSF. These sessions treat a variety of symptoms from depression and anxiety to coping with the trauma that victims of disasters have endured.

Increased awareness efforts about the truth and the impact of global mental illness should influence more governments and non-profits to redirect their aims. However, more innovations will be needed in the coming years to make it cheaper and easier to provide mental health resources around the world. In the meantime, these organizations, as well as others, can only hope for and work towards the continued success of their programs.

Elizabeth A. Frerking

Photo: Flickr

History of Ebola in LiberiaThe first outbreak of Ebola in Liberia was documented in March 2014. By June of that year, Ebola began to take lives. On August 6, the president of Liberia declared a state of emergency, closed schools, and established an Ebola task force.

In her statement on August 6, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf stated, “The virus currently has no cure and has a fatality rate of up to 90 percent. The aggregate number of cases: confirmed, probable and suspected in Liberia has now exceeded 500 with about 271 cumulative deaths. With 32 deaths among health care workers. The death rate among citizens, especially among health workers is alarming.”

Development of Epidemic

In mid-August, the Ivory Coast banned all flights traveling to or from Liberia. Ebola had also spread to neighboring countries, including Guinea and Sierra Leone. Multiple clinics began opening in Monrovia, country’s capital, and across the country, but they did not have enough space to house all those inflicted, and many people died outside hospitals waiting for care.

The president of Liberia requested international assistance in early October of 2014, and on October 16, President Barack Obama granted the use of the National Guard and reservists in Liberia.

At that point, nearly 4,500 people had died from Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The military personnel sent by the U.S. assisted in building clinics and providing humanitarian assistance.

Working on Ebola-free Country

World Health Organisation (WHO) began to implement its 70-70-60 plan to curb the epidemic. The goal was to get 70 percent of the cases isolated and 70 percent of the deceased buried safely within 60 days starting on October 1, 2014. WHO also worked with Liberia’s Ministry of Health to train health care workers on how to safely treat patients that were infected.

In November 2014, WHO reported that there was evidence of a decline of new cases of Ebola in Liberia. In January 2015, clinics that had been overflowing began to close due to a lack of patients.

As of January 28, 2015, there were only five reported cases of Ebola in Liberia. The prevalence of the disease began declining significantly over the next year.

On the May 9, Liberia was declared Ebola-free and three months passed without a recurrence of the disease. Medecins Sans Frontieres encouraged people to stay aware of the disease coming back after the announcement of the eradication.

A few new cases were found in the summer of 2015, but they did not lead to another significant outbreak. Liberia continued to be declared Ebola-free on and off for every 42-day period that passed without a reported case. Most recently, Liberia has been Ebola-free since June 9, 2016.

The Causes for Epidemic Spreading

The massive outbreak of Ebola in Liberia has been contributed by lack of sanitation, corruption and hiding of bodies/diseased people, among others factors.

Many Liberians did not report cases of Ebola or deaths due to it. Instead, they were self-treating and burying bodies in unsafe places. This practice led to the disease spreading at a faster pace.

Lack of sanitation was a major contributor, as many Liberians in Monrovia use the beach and the river as a lavatory. Without sanitary spaces, Ebola was able to run rampant. Additionally, it was reported that body-collection teams would accept bribes from families who did not want people to know their relative died of Ebola. Instead of collecting the body, the teams would leave it with the family so they could host their own funeral.

Thankfully, Liberia has been Ebola-free since 2016 and is now better equipped to handle an outbreak it was to return.

– Amelia Merchant

Photo: Flickr

 LiberiaThe Republic of Liberia, a small nation on the West Coast of Africa, began as a settlement for American freed slaves and free-born blacks in 1822. In 1847, Liberia proclaimed its independence and became Africa’s first independent republic. Like many nations, it has struggled with human rights throughout its history, but it has also made major progress. Here are the top 10 facts about human rights in Liberia.

Facts About Human Rights in Liberia

  1. Around 54 percent of Liberia’s population lives below the poverty line. Only 16.9 percent of its people have access to improved sanitation facilities, and a mere 10 percent have access to electricity. The country’s literacy rate is only 47.6 percent.
  2. A violent 14-year civil war that ended in 2003 destroyed Liberia’s economy, created a refugee crisis and led to major human rights abuses. Such abuses included massacres, executions, rape and torture. Though a Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2009 to address these abuses, no one has yet been tried for war crimes or human rights violations committed during the war.
  3. Violence against women is a major concern in Liberia. It is not uncommon to have domestic violence and sexual violence including rape and female genital mutilation (FGM). Marriage at a young age is also commonplace. Impunity, or lack of punishment for these crimes, is prevalent. Sexual harassment is not explicitly prohibited by law. The country’s maternal mortality rate is one of the highest in the world. However, a bill was passed this last July to set regulations against domestic violence.
  4. Discrimination of and violence against minorities is a serious problem as well. Despite the fact that 12 percent of the population is Muslim, Muslims have had difficulties registering to vote. Racial discrimination in Liberia is persistent and even supported by the country’s constitution, which only those of  “Negro descent” can own land. Furthermore, the LGBT community has no rights.
  5. Children’s rights have progressed in a variety of areas, though there is still room for improvement. Infant mortality rates have dropped 70 percent since 1990. The number of minors in detention has decreased dramatically with the establishment of new procedures and programs that send juvenile offenders to “safe homes and kinship care situations” instead of placing them in the formal criminal justice system. Primary and junior secondary education is compulsory and tuition-free. However, girls still face barriers to attaining an equal education as do students with disabilities. Child abuse, child marriage and even infanticide of children with disabilities are severe human rights violations that still occur in Liberia.
  6. Conditions in Liberian prisons are poor. They are extremely overcrowded and there is a lack of adequate medical care, sanitation, food and water. However, in 2017, the Liberian government did allow various local human rights groups, international non-governmental organizations, the International Committee of The Red Cross, The United Nations and others to independently monitor prison conditions. In addition, some prisons are instituting vocational programs for inmates, another positive step for the country’s prison system.
  7.  Liberia has done fairly well in respecting the rights of refugees. The government automatically grants asylum-seekers from The Ivory Coast refugee status, and Liberia respects the international law of non-refoulement, which prevents states from forcibly returning refugees to the country from which they fled. Refugees are free to move around the country, and the government provides temporary protection to those who do not qualify as refugees as well.
  8. Liberia’s laws concerning labor rights are generally strong. Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited, workers are allowed to join unions and conduct strikes, child employment is strictly regulated and the law guarantees nondiscrimination and equal pay. However, enforcement of some of these laws has been poor. For example, there is widespread discrimination in employment based on gender and disability. In addition, though the formal work sector is highly regulated, the informal sector, where 85 percent of citizens work, is not. This leaves the vast majority of workers vulnerable to exploitation and dangerous working conditions.
  9. Liberia still has progress to make in its protection of political rights, but it has made some important advancements. Presidential and legislative elections in 2017 were considered to be free and fair. Women and minorities are fully allowed to participate in the political process, and the number of women running for public office has increased. The rights of freedom of peaceful assembly and association have generally been respected. However, there have been instances of harassment of the media by law enforcement and government officials for non-conforming political opinions.
  10. Liberia has a variety of institutions working in the nation to improve the country’s human rights situation, including The Liberian Independent National Commission of Human Rights, The Ministry of Justice Human Rights Protection Division and various national committees that focus on specific issues such as child labor rights. The government has also cooperated with the U.N. Office of The High Commissioner for Human Rights to address human rights violations in Liberia.

These facts about human rights in Liberia show that Liberia has made some important advances in improving human rights; however, there is still much progress to be made. Foreign aid, including from the United States, could play a crucial role in helping Liberia improve its respect, protection and actualization of human rights.

– Laura Turner
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents Liberia
For many years, the media has portrayed Liberia as a country in perpetual turmoil, referencing events like the civil war and Ebola outbreaks. Although these events have undoubtedly created obstacles for the Liberian government and its citizens, the country has also had notable accomplishments, like the election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first black female head of state in the world. The international media omits Liberia’s progress, and that omission is how the media misrepresents Liberia.

Liberia’s Politics and Economy Improve After Civil Wars

More than a decade of political strife from civil war has left more than 250,000 dead and about half of the country’s three million people displaced. The severity of war and widespread poverty in Liberia has received substantial media attention. Fifteen years later, the media still manages to make war the focus rather than the country’s positive economic efforts.

The presidential elections in 2017 attracted some media attention when Joseph Duo, who fought rebels during the second civil war, ran for president. Articles covered the war, the poor economy and political instability yet again instead of positive events. The U.S. Embassy in Monrovia described the 1.5 million Liberians who voted in the election as inspirations for democracy, resulting in the victory of current president George Weah.

The economy has grown since the wars, despite media representation of it being stagnant. Liberia has emphasized the importance of economic growth, aided by former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. In 2013, 10 years after the end of the war, GDP growth reached 8.9 percent with natural resources like rubber, palm oil, gold and iron ore greatly contributing to the country’s industry.

Despite the setback of the Ebola outbreak, these sectors have begun to help augment GDP growth in Liberia. In 2017, Liberia experienced 2.5 percent growth, and rates are projected to reach 3.9 percent in 2018 and 5 percent in 2019.

The role of foreign direct investment also indicates economic growth as well as improvements in the country’s stability as foreign companies begin to work in Liberia. Large multinational companies like China’s UnionPay, India’s ArcelorMittal and Russia’s Putu Mining are taking advantage of the new market opportunities in Liberia and have added more than $13 billion to the Liberian economy. These companies’ investments have contributed to the growth and development of the country. The lack of attention given to this growth, however, is how the media misrepresents Liberia.

The Media Misrepresents Liberia by Ignoring Its Progress After Ebola Outbreak

The Ebola virus outbreak, which began in December 2013, affected Liberia the most, and by the time it was eradicated from the country in June 2016, a total of 4,810 people had died. The media heavily covered the progression of the outbreak in West Africa; however, coverage halted after the spread slowed. This lack of discussion is another way the media misrepresents Liberia and its growth. Since the outbreak, Liberia’s healthcare services have improved with the help of the World Bank and other developmental organizations.

Dr. Asinya Magnus, a Liberian doctor who worked in affected hospitals outside the capital of Monrovia, told the World Bank that “Ebola revolutionized health services…with a transition from a closed to an open healthcare system.” Better healthcare systems, more medical supplies and efficient training of medical officials in the country have helped Liberia’s health sector in the aftermath of tragedy.

Liberia still struggles with numerous complicated economic and social issues. These issues, however, remain the overwhelming majority of what is represented in the media. As a small, West African country, the Western media only offers rare glimpses of Liberia to the outside world, and these perpetual negative discussions alter the overall perception of the country and its people. Despite these issues, the country continues to recover and catalyze positive growth and change, hoping that it will eventually receive proper, and positive, representation in the media.

– Matthew Cline
Photo: Flickr

Liberty & JusticeChid Liberty, an entrepreneur, created the clothing manufacturing company Liberty & Justice. Its purpose is to not only change the manufacturing industry for many but also to empower others to continue their education. Instead of just thinking about how the clothes would be made, Chid also thought about the way their formation could change a society, piece by piece.

Encouraging Education

Liberty & Justice manufactures clothing for brands while focusing on making political and economic change in Liberia. Its directors are largely female, with 90 percent of the workforce being women, and its factory is fair trade certified. With its UNIFORM brand, every purchase provides a uniform for a child in Liberia so they may attend school. For a student, a uniform is not only a confidence boost but also reduces absenteeism and improves test scores, according to an MIT study.

Liberty & Justice is headquartered in New York City, but its owner and workers originate from Liberia. Chid said his calling was to return to Africa and provide decent jobs empowering fellow Africans. Taking advantage of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, he began exporting to the U.S., creating interest in his products.

Setting an Example

What really began to spark interest was the treatment of Liberty & Justice workers. With the female workers being paid fair salaries and the collective workforce owning 49 percent of the shares in the company, Liberty & Justice set itself apart from companies exploiting the poor and taking advantage of necessity. Although the company owns 51 percent of the factory from which its clothing comes, Chid does not take a salary, instead focusing his earnings on his workers and incentivizing them to take pride in their business.

Liberty & Justice’s Goals

Liberty & Justice has a five-year social plan it intends to fulfill. It not only includes expanding the Liberian economy but also creating health clinics and providing scholarships for the same children it provides the uniforms. Chid himself was a privileged child, living in Europe and experiencing indulgences common in the Western world. Upon learning how people in his native country lived, he intended to provide as much as he could by giving back in the form of creating jobs.

Liberty & Justice is truly a corporation set on changing the Liberian story from one of poverty to one of growth and development. Chid created this goal with the intention of changing the story for the 70 percent of Liberians living in poverty and instead offering them a chance at a safe and fulfilling life.

– Kayleigh Mattoon
Photo: Flickr


In February, former Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was awarded the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. The Mo Ibrahim Foundation, an organization dedicated to promoting leadership and governance across Africa, dispenses the $5 million honor to former African heads of state that “have developed their countries and strengthened democracy and human rights for the shared benefit of their people.”

Mo Ibrahim Prize

Johnson Sirleaf is the fifth recipient of this honor, which is reserved for democratically elected leaders who, in the previous three years, have demonstrated leadership and left office following legally mandated terms. Previous winners include the former presidents of Mozambique, Botswana, Cape Verde and Namibia.

The selection committee, which chose not to issue the award in 2015 and 2016, selected Johnson Sirleaf for having “led a process of reconciliation” in Liberia in the aftermath of the nation’s civil war. The first female recipient of the Ibrahim Prize, Johnson Sirleaf became the first democratically elected African head of state when she was inaugurated as President of Liberia in 2006.

In many ways, Johnson Sirleaf’s journey mirrors that of her country — both have weathered significant tumult and overcome controversy in their search for stability.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was born and raised in Liberia, and eventually came to the United States to study, earning an MBA from Harvard in 1972. She was back in Liberia working as a finance official, when, in 1980, a staff sergeant led a coup which ousted its president. The coup, which resulted from tensions between the indigenous people and the Americo-Liberians – descendants of settlers who came to the nation as part of a program of the American Colonization Society – commenced the nation’s descent into chaos.

Johnson Sirleaf managed to escape to the United States. Following an interlude working in international finance, she returned to Liberia and ran for the Senate, but was arrested and sentenced to work in a labor camp. Mounting international pressure culminated in her release after less than a year of her ten-year sentence.

Tensions between competing militias intensified, thrusting the nation into further violence and civil war. Forced to flee once more, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took a job at the United Nations.

Development and Women’s Rights

She returned to Liberia in 1997, and lost her presidential bid before being elected in 2005. During her tenure, she leveraged her ties with international organizations to bring development assistance to Liberia. She also prioritized women’s rights and stopping “gender-based violence, building ‘capacity’ and furthering reconciliation among former combatants” to stabilize the country.

Helped by her financial expertise, Liberia succeeded in having much of its international debt forgiven, and also managed to secure significant foreign direct investment to a nation whose infrastructure had been decimated by its civil wars.

Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency was punctuated by the Ebola crisis; under her leadership, Liberia became the first of three nations to stop the outbreak.

Faults and Success

Despite her successes, Johnson Sirleaf’s presidency was not without controversy. She faced substantial criticism for her brief support of the warlord Charles Taylor in 1990 and she also weathered charges of nepotism for her appointment of her sons to government posts. Critics consider this behavior a regrettable irony for a leader who made combating corruption a hallmark of her campaign.

The Mo Ibrahim Foundation recognized these “shortcomings” but chose to issue the award because Liberia was the only nation in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance which improved its scores in each category during Johnson Sirleaf’s tenure.

– Brendan Wade

Photo: Flickr