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

Causes of Water Insecurity in Liberia

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

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

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

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

3 Organizations Providing Clean Water in Liberia

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

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

– Alexander Poran
Photo: Flickr

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

Causes of Homelessness in Liberia

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

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

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

The Aftermath of the Civil Wars

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

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

Homelessness and Disease

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

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

Nonprofits Making Change in Liberia

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

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

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

Alyssa Hogan
Photo: Flickr

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

What is Fragility?

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

Poverty and Fragility

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

Fragility Forum Highlights

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

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

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

Emily Rahhal
Photo: Wikimedia

Hunger in Liberia
Liberia is a country on the West African coast. Neighboring the Ivory Coast, Guinea and Sierra Leone, it spans just under 100,000 square kilometers of land. A long civil war, consistent disease outbreaks and widespread economic instability have led to prevalent hunger and malnutrition. Here are six facts about hunger in Liberia.

6 Facts About Hunger in Liberia

  1. Human Development Index: Liberia ranks 176th out of 189 countries on the Human Development Index. The country is one of 14 African countries ranking within the lowest 15 on the index. This is largely because the country’s life expectancy at birth is quite low, being less than 64 years.
  2. Global Hunger Index: The country ranks 112th out of 117 countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI). The index consists of a range of scores, 0.0-50.0, where Liberia holds a score of 34.9. The score indicates the country’s hunger levels are ‘serious’ and on the brink of becoming ‘alarming.’ According to the previous index scores, however, Liberia has consistently improved their conditions and lowered their GHI score by 13.7 points throughout a course of 19 years, from 48.6 in 2000 to 34.9 in 2019.
  3. Malnourishment: Approximately 45% of Liberia’s population is chronically or acutely malnourished. According to several experts and NGOs, the country’s destitute circumstances are due in part to the Ministry of Health undermining the severity of the situation. Additionally, in the country’s impoverished capital, Monrovia, 45% of deaths of children under the age of five are due to a lack of food and being underweight.
  4. Sustainable Development Goals: Liberia ranks 154th out of 157 countries on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. The country’s economic and social development has been stunted for a long period of time. The 14-year civil war, which formally ended in 2003, contributed to the country’s leading issues today: widespread economic instability and insecurity, destroyed infrastructure, poverty and poor living conditions. According to Famine Early Warning Systems Network, 32% of the country’s population is classified as having moderate or severe chronic food insecurity. This affects more than 1.55 million people.
  5. Economic Collapse: The country’s continued engagement in several internal and external conflicts led to a 90% drop in the GDP between 1987 and 1995. Liberia’s plummeting economic situation is amongst the biggest economic collapses ever recorded. The weak economy has continually increased the prices of products and decreased income, making it hard for families to sustain their basic needs. The rising cost of food has resulted in increased chronic food insecurity throughout Liberia. On average, 1 in 5 households in the country is food insecure. Moreover, 2 in 5 households are marginally food insecure. While the country has been successful in decreasing their chronic malnutrition rates from ‘critical’ to ‘serious’ levels according to the WHO classifications, food insecurity continues to remain an important issue.
  6. Child Hunger and Mortality: One in 11 Liberian children dies before the age of five. In 2007, an average Liberian woman had more than five children. This number decreased to just under five in 2013. While poor water sanitation and an alarming rate of food insecurity consistently claim the lives of approximately 10% of children under five, 60% of girls that survive tend to begin childbearing at the age of 19. These malnourished adolescent girls tend to give birth to malnourished babies with low birth weights. And as a result, the babies have an increased risk of illnesses and premature death.

Fighting Hunger in Liberia

While hunger, malnutrition and poverty are persistent issues, many humanitarian organizations such as the WHO, UNICEF and the Action Against Hunger are working toward improving Liberia’s living conditions. Action Against Hunger, for example, recently assisted more than 90,000 people and helped the country’s government implement policies to make progress in alleviating Liberia’s hunger.

Action Against Hunger started Liberian programs in 1990 and has continually improved the lives of hundreds of thousands in the country. One of the prominent programs started by the organization involved training of mother-to-mother support groups to ensure healthy child-feeding practices. With widespread malnutrition, Action Against Hunger also worked with Liberia’s Ministry of Health to implement clean water, sanitation and hygiene improvement programs.

Moving Forward

Hunger in Liberia, while affecting millions every day, is on the path of improvement. With the help of numerous humanitarian organizations, hunger in Liberia will hopefully decrease. The United Nations aims to end hunger and diminish food insecurity in Liberia within the next ten years. Accomplishing this will require a continued focus on decreasing hunger in the nation.

Omer Syed
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in Liberia
As COVID-19 spreads across the world, it is still not the leading cause of death from a single infectious agent. According to the CDC, that title belongs to tuberculosis, a respiratory illness that the bacteria species Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes. It usually targets the lungs but can attack any part of the body. Tuberculosis in Liberia, among other impoverished countries, remains a predominant issue that the country needs to address.

While tuberculosis is largely curable, it can be lethal if left untreated. The disease still affects populations of developing nations due to their lower capacity health care systems. According to the CDC, tuberculosis is the eighth leading cause of death in Liberia. The disease infects over 300 people per 100,000 Liberians.

Poverty in Liberia

 An article in the Lancet explains that tuberculosis is the “archetypal disease of poverty,” remaining prevalent largely in developing nations such as Liberia. Over 90% of the Liberian population lives under the international poverty line of $5.50 per day. Poverty not only makes treatment costs excessively burdensome for many people, but it also contributes to risk factors that further the spread of the infection.

According to Dr. Saurabh Mehta, Associate Professor of Global Health, Epidemiology and Nutrition at Cornell University, conditions that weaken the immune system are risk factors for tuberculosis transmission. These conditions include HIV infection, diabetes and malnutrition, all of which correlate with a lower socioeconomic status.

Dr. Mehta explains that overcrowding is another risk factor that facilitates TB transmission. In a crowded setting, a person infected with tuberculosis has a higher potential to interact with susceptible people.

Both malnutrition and overcrowding could contribute to the impact of tuberculosis in Liberia. One in three Liberian children experience stunting due to malnutrition, and over half of Liberia’s urban population lives in slums. The World Food Program is working to alleviate hunger in Liberia by providing meals in schools, supporting refugees through direct food aid and creating food reserves in food-insecure communities. The World Food Program provided over 66,000 pounds of rice as an initial reserve, which community members can access at a low-interest rate.

Rebuilding Health Care System Capacity

In order to treat tuberculosis in Liberia, the Liberian government needs a robust health system. However, civil war and outbreaks of other illnesses, such as Ebola, have weakened Liberia’s health system leaving fewer than four physicians per 100,000 people.

From 1989 to 2003, a civil war wreaked havoc throughout the nation, killing more than 250,000 people. Because many either died or fled, the number of trained doctors in Liberia declined from 237 to less than 20 by the end of the war.

While training programs that the country established after the war helped increase the number of nurses, Liberia only had a few dozen of its own doctors at the outset of the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak. Ebola killed 4,809 people and further damaged Liberia’s health systems, among other West African countries. In a few years, the disease killed at least 600 health care workers across Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

To expand and safeguard its health care system’s capacity, Liberia collaborated with the WHO and other organizations to invest in Ebola treatment units as well as training for over 21,000 health workers.

Multidrug-resistant Tuberculosis Treatment

Drug-resistant pathogens are a serious public health concern globally. As existing medications become less effective, previously treatable illnesses become more deadly.

Over 2.5% of people with tuberculosis in Liberia have a multidrug-resistant form of the illness, making their condition higher risk and their treatment more expensive. Additionally, according to Mehta, treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis is less effective and takes two to four times as long to complete as the treatment for tuberculosis that is not drug-resistant.

Taking an incomplete course of tuberculosis treatment increases the risk that someone could develop multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. This risk would decrease, however, if patients had more affordable treatment options.

The Liberian National Leprosy and Tuberculosis Control Program has worked to expand access to the international standard of care for tuberculosis, DOTS (Directly Observed Treatment Short courses). Although the treatment success rate for those who received treatment was at 80%, less than half of people with tuberculosis obtain treatment.

Tuberculosis Comorbidity with HIV/AIDs

The World Health Organization reports that 53 out of every 100,000 people in Liberia have a particularly lethal combination of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDs. People who have both diseases face a higher risk of their tuberculosis becoming active rather than remaining latent/asymptomatic. This is because HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system. As a result, tuberculosis causes 40% of deaths in HIV/AIDS patients.

While treatment to prevent tuberculosis for HIV/AIDs patients exists, only 21% of HIV positive patients receive such treatment. Expanding access to preventative treatment has the potential to significantly reduce mortality for people with tuberculosis in Liberia who also have HIV/AIDs.

Tamara Kamis
Photo: Flickr

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