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

Living Conditions in Liberia

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

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

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

ChildFund

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

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

Liberian Agriculture Project

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

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

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

– Aditya Daita
Photo: Flickr

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

The History of LYO

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

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

LYO’S Impact on Children

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

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

LYO Needs Sustained Support to End Poverty in Liberia

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

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

– Andrea Kruger
Photo: Flickr

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

5 Organizations Working to Reduce Poverty in Liberia

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

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

– Iris Goa
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Liberia
Located on the western coast of Africa, Liberia is a country rich with beauty and natural resources. The lush green landscape is home to many precious gems and metals. Despite this, poverty in Liberia is a large problem. It ranks 174 out of 187 on the United Nations Development Index. Infectious disease runs rampant in the country and the majority of Liberians have little to no education. Two civil wars in the last 30 years have decimated the country’s infrastructure and led to widespread poverty.

Liberia’s population consists mainly of smallholder farmers that struggle to produce enough to feed their families. This has led to poverty in Liberia reaching 68 percent and 35 percent of the population being malnourished. The civil wars have left the country with inadequate roads, water and other basic infrastructure, which has proving a significant barrier for economic growth.

The country’s civil wars also contributed to the over 250,000 Liberian orphans who frequently suffer from malnutrition and are sometimes completely abandoned. Liberia’s education and health systems are both in need of great improvement. The lack of health care access often leads to high fatality rates among those with treatable or preventable diseases. As far as education goes, only half of Liberians are literate, and many Liberian children are kept out of school in order to help on their families’ farms.

The focus of USAID in combating poverty in Liberia is collaborating with the Liberian government to help rebuild the infrastructure and revitalize mining and other utilization of natural resources in the country. Government strategies focus on stimulating the private sector by providing access to credit and infrastructure to Liberians.

The good thing about Liberia is that it has the landscape and resources available to make it a prosperous country.  Now that a stable government is in place, infrastructure can be rebuilt and resources can be utilized to their full potential. For this reason, one of the pillars of USAID’s action in Liberia is strengthening Democracy and Governance.  Once infrastructure is rebuilt, and this can happen rapidly with the help of USAID, the resources flowing out of Liberia will benefit the global economy and western investment will be paid back in spades.

– Martin Drake

Sources: Children of the Nations, USAID
Photo: UNICEF