Fourteen years of armed conflict in Liberia have left 250,000 people killed, almost the entire infrastructure destroyed, and large-scale displacement both internally and to neighbouring countries and further afield.
Following national elections, the government of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was installed in early 2006. Although the overall security situation has been stabilised, localised inter-ethnic property and land disputes, and high tensions in Ivory Coast continue to threaten the fragile peace. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), through its peace-keeping forces has provided security throughout the country since 2003.
Among the major challenges that the government faces are maintaining peace and security after withdrawal of UNMIL peacekeeping forces, tackling corruption, reducing the high level of unemployment (estimated at 80% in 2007), and continuing to reconstruct the country’s infrastructure. Nearly 1.7 million Liberians live below the poverty line of USD 1 per day (in rural areas 68% and in urban areas 55%). 13% of the population is highly vulnerable and 28% moderately vulnerable to food insecurity.
Although the global acute malnutrition rate has decreased in the last years to 2.8%, the chronic malnutrition rate (stunting) remains very high at 41.8 %. Liberia also suffers from high incidence of diseases (malaria, cholera) and high under-5 years and maternal mortality rates. Although primary health care has been largely re-established, the hospital infrastructure remains in a poor state. Liberia is ranked 3 on the DG ECHO Global Needs Assessment scale and is ranked 162/169 in the Human Development Index of 2010.
The south-east of the Liberia (Maryland, River Gee, Gran Kru, Grand Gedeh) remains the most undeserved part of the country. The food insecurity is very high (between 41% and 71% of the population). Remote communities do not have access to save water and the whole area is poorly covered in terms of sanitation facilities. Primary health care has not been as well developed as in other regions of Liberia and lack qualified staff. The few existing roads (including the main roads) are very difficult or impossible to use during the rainy season. As a consequence, numerous and important communities have not been targeted by humanitarian assistance or development activities.
In addition to the above mentioned problems, the turmoil in Ivory Coast since the second round of Presidential elections of 28 November 2010 could cause a further deterioration of the situation as the south-east of Liberia has a long border with Ivory Coast. Fighting in the west of Ivory Coast (near the Liberian border) and Abidjan between the different factions, has led to large displacements within Ivory Coast, and large numbers of Ivoirians have sought refuge in neighboring countries, mainly in Liberia. As of 25 February 2011, the official number of registered refugees in Nimba county, Liberian border area, was of 39,700. In addition, a new waive of refugees estimated at 50,000 individuals arrived in the period of 25 February – 20 March, including 13,000 refugees in Grand Gedeh. If the crisis continues, more refugees could seek refuge in the south – eastern border areas of Liberia.
Although a shift is going on from humanitarian to development funding, humanitarian gaps remain. Liberia still requires humanitarian assistance and support until the Government has the capacity to take over from international agencies in a linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) context.