Liberia is located in Western Africa with a population of 4.7 million people. Although there are efforts for improvement in the country, Liberia still suffers from high rates of poverty. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Liberia.
10 Facts About Poverty in Liberia
- Food Supply: According to the World Bank, 54 percent of Liberia’s population is living under the poverty line. In 2011, 83.7 percent of the population was living on less than $2.00 per day. The World Food Programme (WFP), which has been present in Liberia since 1968, and Liberia’s government worked together on a plan to fight poverty by providing 87,139 students with meals and 3,600 girls from poor households with take-home rations. In addition, the WFP worked with the Ministry of Health and other stakeholders to assess the status, livelihood, social protection and food security of those living with HIV and tuberculosis.
- Education: The education system in Liberia is a work in progress due to a 14-year civil war and the Ebola outbreak in 2014, which caused schools to close down. According to UNICEF, among most African countries, Liberia is behind in its education system and has one of the world’s highest rate of out-of-school children with 15 to 20 percent of 6- to 14-year-old kids not in school. In addition, only a third of preschoolers have access to early education learning programs, and 54 percent do not finish primary school. However, despite the statistics, in 2015 about 1.4 million children enrolled in pre-primary school, primary school and high school. According to Liberia’s Ministry of Education in 2015, 116 percent of students enrolled in early childhood education, 88 percent in primary school, 56 percent in junior high and 39 percent in senior high. The Ministry of Education, UNICEF and other organizations worked together to help repair or rebuild classrooms, train teachers, review curricula and create education policies and plans.
- Diseases: According to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), after the Ebola outbreak in 2014 causing 4,200 deaths, there are improvements being made for recovery. USAID and UNICEF partnered with the Liberian government to provide schools and teachers with 7,000 infection prevention and control kits. In addition, they also trained teachers on how to prevent infections and provide psychosocial support to students and families with Ebola.
- Malnutrition: Liberia is one of the 21 countries with the highest stunting levels in the world. One out of three children under the age of 5 years old is stunted or too short for their age because of a lack of proper nutrition. In addition, malnourished children are at a higher risk for death from diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of deaths among children under the age of 5 are related to malnutrition.
- Water: In Liberia, about 90 percent of people under the age of 5 die because of this water crisis. Access to clean water could decrease infection, disease and death. The Last Well is an organization that is dedicated to providing Liberians with clean drinking water. This organization provided clean water to 4 million Liberians and counting.
- Sanitation: In rural areas, due to lack of proper toilets and sanitation services, about 42 percent of people must excrete out in the open. In addition, the lack of proper sanitation services results in the spread of diseases and causes students to miss days of school. However, the government of Liberia is working on improving these conditions through a WASH program that will increase safe water supply, sanitation and hygiene practices. After the 2014 Ebola outbreak, there was a strong need for WASH services in schools to prevent illnesses. From 2015 to 2016, 55 percent of 4,460 schools in Liberia did not have access to functional water supply, 43 percent did not have basic sanitization facilities and only 18 percent had permanent handwashing facilities. The WASH program reached about 50,763 people in five remote counties in Liberia that have low access to water. The program also built two pit toilets in two clinics and three wells at one clinic and rehabilitated six wells in six communities.
- Youth unemployment rates: According to the United Nations, 85 percent of the youth population is unemployed. The civil wars affected Liberia’s economy resulting in the widespread youth unemployment. About 35 percent of males and 42 percent of females are unable to find jobs due to lack of skills and training. According to the International Labour Organization, the future for African youth relies on the right policies and programs that will create employment opportunities.
- Immunization: According to the 2017 WHO-UNICEF Estimates of Immunization Coverage, 13 percent of children in Liberia have not taken the measles vaccine. The Liberian government and UNICEF worked together on a project to raise awareness on the importance of immunization for children to help prevent diseases. Every year UNICEF sends more than 3 million doses of routine vaccines and supplies for immunization campaigns.
- Literacy rates: According to UNESCO, the literacy rate for Liberia’s youth is 54.5 percent with males at 64.7 percent and females at 44 percent. A nonprofit organization called Alfalit International Liberia is an organization that aims to educate, empower and provide economic freedom to marginalized, disadvantaged and distressed groups of Liberia. Alfalit not only provides literacy and basic education but also offers scholarships to the youth of Liberia. This organization partnered with the Ministry of Education and others to create teaching and learning centers for the youth. Over the course of eight years, the program educated over 65,000 people, 85 percent of which are women, and trained 800 teachers.
- Child Labor: In Liberia, children work in dangerous environments such as in the production of rubber and the mining of gold and diamonds. About 78.4 percent of children work in agriculture, 4.2 percent in industry and 17.4 in services. The Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection is an organization established in 2001, which assists with investigations of child labor cases and monitors child protection policies and the government’s efforts on agreements with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
These 10 facts about poverty in Liberia provide a snapshot of the current conditions in Liberia and areas that can be focused on for improvement. Despite the challenges Liberia faces due to poverty, there are efforts from various organizations to improve the country. However, more needs to be done to tackle the issues that will require the intervention of political leaders. Surely, with an emphasis on education and policies to implement more opportunities for Liberians, poverty will decrease.
– Merna Ibrahim