Liberia: UNMIL Humanitarian Situation Report No. 156

11 - 24 November 2008


- Child Protection in Liberia

- WASH sector in Liberia

Child Protection in Liberia

The World Congress II against the Sexual Exploitation of Children and Adolescents, set for 25-28 November 2008 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, aims to promote international cooperation and effective action on sexual exploitation.

Despite positive strides towards a restored society, sexual violence against women and children remains a central reality of life in Liberia, where the United Nations maintains its second largest peacekeeping mission (UNMIL). According to the statistics, rape - especially of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 - is one of the most reported crimes. Sexual violence occurs across all socio-economic and cultural backgrounds; women may be socialized to accept, tolerate or rationalize it. A weak justice system, the lingering violence of the war and unwillingness to report in relevant instances, limited capacity to implement child protection programmes by government counterparts, stigma associated with HIV/ AIDS hampers improvement of the situation. According to the statistics, reported rate of rape cases remains the same during the year - on average 54 reported cases per month countrywide. Only during this year Women and Children Protection Section of UNICEF handled 2,352 cases of which 707 were Gender Based Violence (GBV) including sexual violence. Out of the 707 cases, 272 were sent to court, 235 pending and 200 cases withdrawn. 124 survivors of sexual violence 0-35 years of age (3 boys, 116 girls and 5 women) accessed psychosocial care, protection and medical services at the two Safe Homes. 98 were reintegrated into their families and communities, 26 are currently receiving services at the Safe Home, established by UNICEF for sexually violated girls.

Justice for children

However, there are some activities ongoing towards strengthening of justice and social systems in order to ensure full respect for children's rights, e.g., the fourth draft of the Liberian Children's Bill was finalized, 1098 juveniles (410 boys and 688 girls) in contact with the law received rehabilitative, psychosocial care and protection in two Juvenile Transit Centres supported by UNICEF this year. With regards to justice and reconciliation process, over 1,000 children gave statements to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), 33 children testified during the public hearing sessions.

Social Protection of Vulnerable Children

Within the frame of Sexual and Gender Based Violence Joint Programme during this year 2760 teachers, 1440 Parents- Teachers Association (PTA) members, 27,600 students in 216 schools in 84 communities received training on prevention and reporting SEA in the schools, over 100 female LNP officers received training on child protection.

Way forward

As a way forward it is intended to fully implement the Juvenile Code next year in Liberia, to follow up on the TRC recommendations and work on a child friendly report, to revitalize and scale up Birth Registration, to actively support welfare and reintegration of vulnerable children, particularly orphans, trafficked children, and children with disabilities, continue working on empowerment of young people, especially adolescent girls.

WASH sector in Liberia

Liberia's infrastructure was severely damaged by the war and significantly undermined the delivery of water and sanitation services. Monrovia's water supply fell from 18 million gallons daily to just 1 million gallons. There was no electricity or piped water in the country for 15 years until the new Government turned on some water and electricity in Monrovia in July 2006.

Due to the civil crisis in Liberia the water and sanitation sector activities have not been well organized or coordinated. The sector is operating in a fragmented governance framework with roles and responsibilities split among several ministries and agencies of government. The Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy leads in policy formulation; the Ministry of Public Works and the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation are respectively responsible for service delivery in rural and urban areas (population over 5,000)

Other agencies with major stakes in the sector include Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, responsible for Health Promotion, Environmental and Occupational Health; Ministry of Education, responsible for school health and hygiene; Environmental Protection Agency, responsible for the environment; Monrovia City Corporation, responsible for solid waste collection in Monrovia and its surrounds; the Liberia Water and Sanitation consortium comprising 5 international NGOs led by OXFAM; and a number of local and international NGOs of various capacities. As of today, there are 33 accredited International NGOs and 128 National NGOs in the country . As per the Management Steering Group of International NGOs in Liberia, another 24 INGOs are in the process of getting accredited.

An assessment of water, sanitation and hygiene sector in Liberia recently conducted by Liberia Reconstruction and Development Committee (LRDC) Office of the President identified series of gaps, blockages/ constraints and areas of support required for meeting the Poverty Reduction Strategy targets: Lack of clear cut policy on water and sanitation; lack of realistic planning data on current access to water and sanitation; fragmented responsibilities; low Institutional capacity; inadequate coordination; low hygiene promotion capacity, access, logistics, Human Resources, funding, donor priorities / plans, capacity of NGOs, capacity of Village Water Committees; gender discrimination, environmental causes, pollution; lack of supply chain for spare parts and latrine slabs; lack of decentralization; cultural, conflict & security issues, etc.

Implications for PRS Priorities in Water and Sanitation

On an analysis of the existing capacity and past performance of the sector over the last four years, conclusion can be made, that while there is a possibility of achieving the PRS target (50%) for access to water by the year 2011, the PRS target (40%) for sanitation access needed downward revision. On the assumption that Monrovia's sewage treatment plant would be fully rehabilitated by the year 2011, and assuming a potential doubling of capacity and efforts for sanitation delivery in the next three years, the PRS target for sanitation access has been suggested to be scaled down from 40% to 33%. The underlying idea is to have realistic and achievable targets, rather than ambitious and unrealistic targets.

PRS targets in real terms mean that by the year 2011 access to water supply need to be provided to an additional 872,268 people and sanitation to an additional 928,383 people in the country. It means, additional 3500 water points and 182,000 latrines need to be established in the country over the next three years.

While the target for water may be achievable, the PRS target for sanitation may have to be re-visited, given the fact that over the last three-four years just about 13000 latrines were constructed in the entire country. This calls for not just doubling or trebling of efforts and capacity (in terms of funds, manpower, etc) but multifold (over 14 times). Even assuming the funding is available, sanitation projects evolve at varying pace, given the socio-cultural habits and low capacity of hygiene education in the country, and under the demand-driven paradigm of service delivery.

Although getting the finances required could be a constraint, financing alone will not determine the feasibility of achieving the targets. Achieving the PRS goals will require strong Government commitment, policy reforms, concerted efforts to build capacity, vibrant citizen participation, and effective and efficient supporting arrangements with partners, alongside appropriate levels of financing.