MONROVIA, Liberia — Despite a violent history, poverty and outbreaks of Ebola, Liberia’s steady recovery continues. Bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivorie in the southern plateau of western Africa, Liberia is home to over 4 million people, 63.8 percent of whom live below the poverty line.
Liberia became Africa’s first republic when it was founded in 1822, but after decades of peaceful governance, it suffered a civil war lasting from 1989 to 1997. Warlords and rebel contingents contributed to political unrest in the country.
During the presidency of Charles Taylor, who lead Liberia from 1997 to 2003, the U.N. placed a series of sanctions on the country, disapproving of Taylor’s support of Sierra Leone’s violent Revolutionary United Front (RUF). The political turmoil didn’t end until 2003, when Taylor finally stepped down.
These events left the Liberian economy in disrepair. A combination of sluggish growth and the Ebola outbreak of 2014 has made Liberia’s recovery especially slow. But progress has been steady.
Rubber plays a pivotal role in Liberia’s economy and has contributed to the country’s steady recovery. Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) and the Government of Liberia (GOL) have agreed to set aside 4,800 hectares of land between Gant and Saclpea for rubber production for at least 30 years.
As part of the government’s Economic Recovery Plan, the initiative will lead to job creation and improved access to healthcare and education services. It will also contribute to the development of a sustainable agricultural program to galvanize Liberia’s agricultural sector, benefit its smallholder farmers and strengthen its infrastructure.
Efforts have also been made to develop stronger health systems to combat the threat of infant mortality, Ebola and other diseases in Liberia. The Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) is hoping to develop cures for Ebola by studying Ebola RNA in the semen of male survivors.
Liberia’s relationship with the U.S. has also contributed to its steady recovery. The U.S. recently donated boats, vehicles and equipment to Liberia’s military. In addition to this, USAID has invested $148 million in Tetra Tech Inc. to keep President Obama’s Power Africa program going. This initiative will benefit Liberia by connecting Liberian communities to electricity.
Michelle Obama’s recent visit to Liberia reflected the world’s growing concern for the education of Liberian girls. USAID has announced its intention to contribute up to $27 million to the Obamas’ Let Girls Learn campaign.
Liberia’s steady recovery is a triumph for its economy and its people. Sustainable solutions and responsible aid will continue to improve the lives of Liberians, who have been afflicted by hardship for decades.
– Shivani Ekkanath