Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Liberia's Challenges

Liberia is situated on the West African coast and has borders with Sierra Leone, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. With a population of approximately 3.5 million, Liberians have a life expectancy of 42 years and a GDP per capita of just US$131.

Liberia has come out of a brutal 23-year period marked by coups, general instability, violence and civil war. This has left the country devastated with its physical infrastructure destroyed and its population traumatised. Thousands of refugees, displaced people and demobilized youths are without education, jobs or hope for the future.

Liberia is rich in natural resources and has historically attracted much investment in shipping, mining of minerals, rubber and timber. The fruits of these resources have not been shared with the majority of the population and despite this natural wealth, 80% of the population live below the poverty line.

Regional stability

Liberia's location on the West African coast, places it at the center of an extremely volatile region, surrounded by countries where civil unrest and armed conflict has been the norm. Former Liberian dictator Charles Taylor, currently being tried at the UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone for war crimes, still casts a shadow over the region.

Over the last fourteen years of civil conflict in Liberia, civilians have been forced to flee their homes and farms for internally displaced persons' camps, leaving behind farm inputs, abandoned harvests and seeds for future planting. Throughout Liberia, as security improves families are now returning from the displacement camps to their areas of origin without even the basic necessities to start their lives again.

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