Settlement of freed slaves from the US and the Caribbean in what is today Liberia began in 1822; by 1847, the Americo-Liberians were able to establish a republic. Officially the Republic of Liberia, is a country in West Africa bordered by Sierra Leone to its west, Guinea to its north and Côte d’Ivoire to its east. It covers an area of 111,369 km² and is home to about 3.7 million people. From antiquity through the 1700s, many ethnic groups from the surrounding regions settled in the area, making Liberia one of Africa’s most culturally rich and diverse countries.
One of Africa’s bloodiest civil wars ensued, from 1989 to 1996 claiming the lives of more than 600,000 Liberians and displacing a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. Entire villages were emptied as people fled. Child soldiers committed atrocities, raping and murdering people of all ages. The senseless civil war claimed the lives of one out of every 17 people in the country, uprooted most of the rest, and destroyed a fragile economic. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened in 1990 and succeeded in preventing the rebels from capturing Monrovia.
Liberia’s high fertility rate of nearly 5 children per woman and large youth cohort – more than 60% of the population is under the age of 25 – will sustain a high dependency ratio for many years to come. Significant progress has been made in preventing child deaths, despite a lack of health care workers and infrastructure. Infant and child mortality have dropped nearly 70% since 1990; the annual reduction rate of about 5.4% is the highest in Africa.
Nevertheless, Liberia’s high maternal mortality rate remains among the world’s worst; it reflects a high unmet need for family planning services, frequency of early childbearing, lack of quality obstetric care, high adolescent fertility, and a low proportion of births attended by a medical professional. Female mortality is also increased by the prevalence of female genital cutting (FGC), which is practiced by 10 of Liberia’s 16 tribes and affects more than two-thirds of women and girls. FGC is an initiation ritual performed in rural bush schools, which teach traditional beliefs on marriage and motherhood and are an obstacle to formal classroom education for Liberian girls.
Liberia has been both a source and a destination for refugees. During Liberia’s 14-year civil war (1989-2003), more than 250,000 people became refugees and another half million were internally displaced. Between 2004 and the cessation of refugee status for Liberians in June 2012, the UNHCR helped more than 155,000 Liberians to voluntarily repatriate, while others returned home on their own. Some Liberian refugees spent more than two decades living in other West African countries. Liberia hosted more than 125,000 Ivoirian refugees escaping post-election violence in 2010-11; as of mid-2017, about 12,000 Ivoirian refugees were still living in Liberia as of October 2017 because of instability.
Sources: * Unless otherwise noted, demographic facts and statistics have been sourced from CIA World Factbook 2018.
Life is extremely challenging in Liberia due to high poverty levels, post-war trauma and economic struggles. More recently, the Ebola virus epidemic caused further suffering; over 4,800 people died and many more were affected and are struggling to rebuild their lives. Liberia is Africa’s oldest republic, and it is the poorest country in Africa – poor infrastructure, poor educational systems and a fragile economy. Currently around 82 per cent of people live in poverty. Many basic services such as safe drinking water, sanitation and a public power supply are unavailable. Eighty-four percent of the population lives below the international poverty line (1.25 U.S. dollars/day). The frequency of negligent and violent acts, including sexual abuse, against children is very troubling. Infrequently punished, harsh treatment is largely widespread especially within the family, and bodily harm towards children is not formally forbidden at school or home. 70 percent of rape victims are mostly girls from 10 years of age to 16. Many of them do not testify from fear of being rejected by their family and community. Young boys and girls find themselves in stressful and potentially dangerous situations without any means of defense.
Living in poverty, without access to quality education or healthcare, children in Liberia need your help.
20% of school – age children are out of school
70 out of 1000 children die before their 4th birthday
54% of people live in poverty