Lending a Hand in Liberia

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MONROVIA, Liberia- Lately, Liberia has been a place of both beauty and instability. Sitting on the outer edge of West Africa, Liberia faces the North Atlantic Ocean and is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire. In its most recent history, Liberia has been struck with political unrest, rapid population growth, and widespread food insecurity. This has caused grave consequences on a country that already ranks 174 out of 187 on the 2013 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Human Development Index. For the 3.7 million people living in Liberia, beating adversity and finding a way to survive is a daily routine.

Overcoming military upheaval which tore the region apart for approximately 30 years, the Liberian people have felt the weight of war as chronic malnutrition and hunger are still a cause of concern. The 2012 Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey (CFSNS) showed that one out of every five households was food insecure and that malnutrition rates had reached a national average of 36 percent. Even though Liberia operates on a free health care system, only 17 percent of essential health care services are covered.

The current state of affairs in Liberia is shaky at best, but as of late, four international parties are doing their best to aid those suffering most in the area:

Japan – The Government of Japan have signed an agreement with the Liberian Government to provide food relief by contributing $5.1 million worth of funds. That contribution will be used for food aid and other programs which aim at strengthening communities and encouraging self-reliance and sustainability. Japanese Ambassador to Liberia Naoto Nikai stated that while Liberia has been stunted in developmental growth, there is still an untapped opportunity, “Liberia is blessed with a very fertile soil, with a sustainable combination of humidity, water, and temperature. Once people gain access to knowledge, technology, infrastructure, and supply chain, I believe the situation will definitely improve.”

World Food Programme (WFP) – The WFP has provided assistance to Liberia since 2003 and has recently contributed to the World Bank’s West Africa Agricultural Productivity program. The first phase of the WFP’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS I) seeks to improve growth and development and is currently being implemented. The second Poverty Reduction Strategy is also under development and will cover the area until 2015.

European Union – Humanitarian programs including emergency food aid and reconstruction projects have been in place since 1999 and are ongoing. The 11th European Development Fund will begin its efforts in 2014 and will continue to do so until 2020. Invested funds will go towards educational purposes and will also support state sectors and buildings.

Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) – BRAC has worked in in the agriculture, livestock, and poultry sector in Liberia for almost 6 years. BRAC has focused their efforts in providing training to experienced farmers in selected areas which aims at increasing livestock production and income for roughly 12,000 poor small holder farmers, 65% of which are women. Those who are trained will then offer services to the community for income and will also train other small holder farmers. In its entirety, the program will increase income and food security for almost 65,000 people.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: All Africa, WFP, BRAC
Photo: John Keatley Photography

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