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

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

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Liberia

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

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

 Andrea Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 facts about life expectancy in Liberia
Liberia 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

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

Liberian MidwivesAlthough Liberia has been Ebola-free for over a year, the devastation the disease wreaked on the Liberian healthcare system persists. Liberian midwives are increasing in number, but they face many challenges.

Liberia was the center of an Ebola outbreak in 2014 that claimed the lives of roughly 180 healthcare workers. In the midst of the epidemic, maternal death rates rose, and they have been slow to decline.

Hannah Gibson, a trainee in a program designated to teach advanced obstetrics to midwives, recounted the panic that struck the Liberian healthcare system when patients suffering from Ebola first began to surface.

Many Liberian midwives abandoned their positions, leaving hospitals understaffed. Gibson and a few of her coworkers eventually quarantined themselves in their hospital, working around the clock to provide medical care for the women in the maternity unit.

Even before the Ebola outbreak, the number of obstetrician-gynecologists in Liberia was low. According to Liberian minister of health Bernice Dahn, today there may be fewer than five.

During the outbreak, Gibson became one of the first Liberian midwives to be trained by British NGO Maternal and Childhealth Advocacy International (MCAI). The NGO proposed teaching surgical procedures such as caesarean sections to midwives in order to bridge the gap in prenatal care in Liberia. The training empowers midwives to operate, resulting in more positive outcomes in semi-complicated childbirths.

Unfortunately, specialized midwifery like this is not accessible to all expecting mothers. There are currently only 400 trained midwives in the Liberian healthcare system, a number too small to meet the needs of over four million people, and the majority of midwives reside in urbanized sectors.

In Liberia, 44 percent of women give birth with no medical attendant because they live in rural areas where care is too far away to obtain. One in every 138 live births results in a mother’s death due to preventable complications requiring basic medical care.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with the Liberian Ministry of Health and Social Welfare to enhance Liberia’s six midwifery schools. But merely training midwives will not end the midwife crisis completely. Because midwifery in Liberia is a low-income profession with few opportunities to advance, retaining Liberian midwives is also a problem. Medical professionals trained in Liberia often take their credentials and move to countries that offer better salaries.

Fortunately, through a new Bachelor of Science midwifery program, midwives will be able to further their careers within the Liberian healthcare system, attending to peoples’ needs in understaffed locations. The Danish Midwives Association is giving program instructors current and advanced training in order to ensure the enterprise’s success.

Amy Whitman

Photo: Flickr

Ebola VirusIn January, officials in Sierra Leone confirmed a new death from the Ebola virus in the country, days after Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea declared themselves Ebola-free.

According to NewsWeek, the World Health Organization (WHO) said last Thursday that “it was the first time all three West African countries had held the Ebola-free status simultaneously…effectively bringing to an end the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history that has claimed lives of some 11,300 people.”

The Ebola virus disease is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It is transmitted to individuals from human to human transmission, or from wild animals. There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines and the average EVD case fatality rate is around 50 percent, according to the WHO.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been the largest and most complex outbreak since the deadly disease was first discovered in the late 70’s.

Said the WHO, “The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, have very weak health systems, lack human and infrastructural resources, and have only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability.”

A test center in Sierra Leone announced that the tests on the patient who died a few days ago confirmed that his death was due to the deadly virus. To reduce further threats, Sierra Leone officials are currently investigating how the individual became infected and who may have been in contact with him.

The World Health Organization also emphasized that future flare-ups of the deadly virus are probable.

Bruce Aylward, the Ebola correspondent in the organization said that the “risk of re-introduction of infection is diminishing as the virus gradually clears from the survivor population, but we still anticipate more flare-ups and must be prepared for them.”

According to NewsWeek, recent investigations have found that the virus can remain in the male survivor’s semen for up to nine months. Hence, the WHO suggests Ebola survivors and their sexual partners abstain from sex or practice extremely safe sex.

“There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated,” said the WHO. Additionally, two potential vaccines re undergoing human safety testing.

The World Health Organization suggests that in order to prevent and control this deadly threat, community engagement is the key to successfully control the outbreaks. “Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission.”

Isabella Rolz

Sources: NewsWeek, World Health Organization
Photo: Bloomberg Business

monrovia
Liberia has had a trying past couple of decades. Most recently, it was plagued by the Ebola virus, which killed thousands of people. Before this, it had suffered though a 14-year-long civil war, which had taken place just a few years after yet another civil war ended. Both wars killed hundreds of thousands of people, leaving many homeless and destitute. Lacking housing or money, many poverty-stricken Liberians have turned to living in cemeteries, many of which are in Monrovia, its capital.

Most go to the Palm Grove Cemetery. Many of these dwellers arrived when they were just children and after their parents had been killed. Some had been child soldiers. They were taken there by friends from the street, who used the relative peace and security of the cemetery to indulge in marijuana, cocaine and heroin. They used tombs for shelter after smashing them open and throwing out their long-dead inhabitants.

Monrovians look upon the cemetery dwellers with distaste and fear. They are viewed as criminals and drug addicts who disrespect the graves of their families and are deprecatorily called “friends of the dead.” On Decoration Day, a public holiday when Liberians paint and adorn tombs, conflict always erupts between the tomb dwellers and the families of the tombs’ rightful owners.

Rather than provide an area for the homeless to live in, President Johnson Sirleaf simply put up walls around the cemetery in 2007 to keep them out. Just a few months later, however, people had already breached the walls to live in the cemetery once again. Now the walls serve to better hide the dwellers and their activities rather than keep them out.

Prostitution has also become commonplace behind the cemetery’s walls. Some women and girls are only able to survive through sex work. They are afforded no protection from the police, who often rape them themselves. Unwanted births are commonplace.

Many diseases also run rampant. Ebola was just another problem to add to a list of illnesses that included ones such as tuberculosis and diarrhea.

Hope may yet be around the corner for these cemetery residents. Last year, the British charity organization Street Child began to work with them, setting up counseling sessions, schools and rehab centers. However, many roadblocks stand in the way of their progress. It is extremely difficult for many residents to even consider weaning themselves off their dependency on drugs. Sometimes, drugs make them aggressive and hostile, which makes it hard for people from Street Child to engage with them.

The outbreak of Ebola also set back efforts. Schools were banned, as were public gatherings. Street Children also started redirecting efforts to the 2,000 children orphaned because of Ebola. Officials have been hostile to Street Children’s efforts in cemeteries, calling their residents a “lost cause.”

Now that Ebola has largely disappeared in Liberia, Street Children is ready to make a renewed effort to help the cemetery dwellers. To the charity organization, small successes have boosted their belief that these people can be saved from a lifetime of poverty and dependency.

– Radhika Singh

Sources: Independent, BBC 1, BBC 2
Photo: Independent

Pilot Program Trains Health Workers for Work Post Ebola

After tending to Ebola patients in West Africa for over a year, health workers have begun returning to their regular jobs. Because of the disease’s decline, a pilot training program to prepare these employees to return to work took place in May 2015 in Liberia.

The training program’s aim was to “refresh important skills but also address weaknesses exposed by the Ebola outbreak,” according to Foday Kanneh, a Ministry of Health training coordinator. Dr. April Baller, head of World Health Organization’s (WHO) clinical management and infection control—along with other prevention teams and Ministry of Health and WHO staff—created the training program. It was a rigorous course designed to “support the restoration and strengthening of the health system which virtually collapsed during the epidemic, while also giving health workers the confidence and capacity to respond in the event that Ebola re-emerges,” said Baller.

Although Ebola is in decline, no one knows when it could return. This disease first appeared in 1976 and did not resurface in human beings between 1977 and 1994. With such erratic exposure, health workers need to be trained for the post-Ebola environment.

Doris Sannoh, a trainee and social worker in Liberia, said that she normally worked in an outreach capacity to prevent HIV and gender-based violence. During the outbreak, she found herself working in the triage area of the hospital, counseling and assisting sick patients. “I never had any infection prevention training as a social worker, but I needed it. As health workers, we all need training like this.”

The training sessions were led by 40 trained facilitators and assisted by Ebola survivors. The survivors role played the parts of patients and critiqued the trainees on the quality of care they administered. In order to ensure that the training acquired during the sessions was used regularly and effectively, on-site mentoring and monitoring was crucial, according to Kanneh. Currently, the Ministry of Health and the WHO are evaluating the course and, if appropriate, will refine it and expand it throughout the country.

According to the WHO, “The West African Ebola outbreak has been the largest, most severe and most complex in human history.” When the outbreak began in March 2014, health workers from all over the world stepped up to work with the WHO to stop the epidemic. It peaked in September 2014 and is now in decline. Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone reported a combined total of 27,705 confirmed, probable and suspected cases up to July 19, 2015. Deaths from confirmed as well as probable and suspected cases totaled 11,269.

The good news is that in the week before July 19, Guinea reported only 22 new confirmed cases, and Sierra Leone reported four. This good news gets even better: Liberia has not reported any new cases in the week before July 19. Currently in Liberia, 56 people who have had contact with Ebola patients are under follow-up care. Eighteen have completed the 21-day surveillance period. If no new cases arise, all contacts will complete follow-up by August 2.

Janet Quinn

Sources: WHO 1, WHO 2, WHO 3
Photo: World Health Organization

Liberian_Peace_Corps
Liberia has seen some tumultuous times in the past few decades. Civil war ravaged the country in the 1990s leaving many citizens in extreme poverty and disrupting educational opportunities for children. Recently, Liberia was hit with Ebola and has suffered from the disease, including the Peace Corps, who needed to suspend their work for a time.

Yet, much good ground work has been done by the Liberian Peace Corps team to help the country overcome the ramifications of such dire events while the country and volunteers wait for the program to resume. The Peace Corps is also partnering with other entities to help rid the country of Ebola.

The Peace Corp first worked in Liberia from 1962-1990 helping with education, rural development, agriculture and health education. But volunteers left the country in 1990 because of the civil war that had broken out. In 2009, Peace Corps volunteers were asked by the Liberian president to return to the country. This time, volunteers focused on educational efforts in the country, specifically math and science at the secondary level.

The Liberian Peace Corps Educational Program defined their purpose as the following: “Liberian students, male and female, will gain access to personal, professional and academic opportunities through math and science education.”

They gave three main educational goals for their work in Liberia: Increase Student Success, Improve Teaching and Improve the School Community. In addition, the volunteers gave after school activity opportunities to the secondary students that have been broken down into four broad priorities: “1. Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment, 2. Youth as Resources, 3. Stomp Out Malaria [and] 4. Food Security.” By using these supplemental goals as a guide, volunteers conducted after school tutoring, encouraged library development, organized various after school clubs, taught English and gave girls a specific opportunity to learn various life, vocational and/or math skills.

Peace Corps volunteers immerse themselves into the community, most volunteers committing two years to the Peace Corps while developing relationships with the locals.

Unfortunately, Liberia is one of the West African countries that has been hit with Ebola quite extensively.

The World Bank says that while in the last 10 years Liberia has seen great economic gains, “the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) has threatened the peace and stability of the country.” The country’s gross domestic product growth has declined due to the economic repression that the country has experienced: “The epidemic is projected to have a significant impact on Liberia’s economy in terms of forgone output; higher fiscal deficits; rising prices; food security challenges, lower real household incomes and greater poverty.”

Ebola has affected Liberia so drastically that the Peace Corps was forced to remove their volunteers in 2014. But that hasn’t stopped the Peace Corps form working in West Africa with the efforts to stop the spread of Ebola.

The Centers for Disease Control, USAID, NGO partners and many more are working to improve conditions in those countries. The Peace Corps has printed educational material that has been distributed to volunteers, staff and communities in other African areas working to stop the spread of the disease. Volunteers in surrounding areas are also providing hand washing classes to the locals in the efforts to stop Ebola.

Even though Ebola has forced the program to be put on pause, the last few years of educational work has been impressive indeed. So much good has been done in the region that one can hope that local leaders will be able to stand in those communities that are suffering from Ebola. Hopefully soon, the efforts to rid West Africa from Ebola will prove effective and the program can restart. With such a strong reputation of good work in the country, the resolve looks good.

– Megan Ivy

Sources: CDC, Peace Corps, Peace Corps Liberia, U.S. Embassy in Liberia, World Bank
Photo: Peace Corps