Food Security and Nutrition Survey Highlights Food Insecurity in Liberia
The report of a multi-agency Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey was released this week. The Survey was conducted from February to June 2006 among 5,409 households (including 6,401 mothers and their children under five years) in 375 rural and semi-rural communities. It found that households in Lofa, Grand Kru, River Gee, Bomi, Gbarpolu, Nimba and Sinoe Counties are the most food-insecure in Liberia; 11% of the households surveyed are food-insecure; 40% are highly vulnerable; and 39% of children under five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition.
The underlying causes of food insecurity, the report argues, include low agricultural production capacities, limited economic access to food, and limited biological absorption due to lack of lack of access to safe drinking water. The main groups of food-insecure people are returnees, households that rely on hunting and contract work, and households that have experienced food production shocks (e.g., loss of harvest caused to pests). The survey recommends, among other measures, increasing food production and productivity; improving people's access to short-term food sources through food-for-work, food-for education and supplementary feeding programmes; and enhancing institutional capacity to manage food security and nutrition interventions.
1. FOOD AID / SECURITY AND LIVELIHOODS
1.1. ACF Food Security Assessment Calls for Humanitarian Assistance to Nimba County
During the week, Action Contre la Faim (ACF) published the findings of its Food Security Surveillance Assessment conducted in three districts of Nimba County between June and July 2006. The assessment found that almost 90% of the population in these districts were returnees who faced difficulties in accessing their staple food (rice and cassava). Access to basic infrastructure and facilities remained inadequate for many communities. Poor road condition exacerbated by the rainy season, especially in Yarwein-Mehnsonneh district, increased inaccessibility of the three districts. Farmers have limited access to seeds, and rodents threaten their crops. Food purchases accounted for 68% of household expenditure. The report concluded that although humanitarian assistance was helping to improve basic infrastructure, external assistance is still required to address the needs of a growing population with regards to food production and access to health and education.
2. HEALTH / NUTRITION
2.1. Improvement in Health-care Delivery in Gbarpolu County
The re-opening of the newly renovated Totoquelleh and the Kpayahkolleh clinics in Gbarpolu County in northwest Liberia has increased the number of health facilities from 11 to 13 in the county. Save the Children -UK, UNHCR (through its partner Africa Humanitarian Aid) and the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare are managing the health facilities. Yet, significant gaps exist in health care delivery in Bokomu, Belle, and Kongba districts, all areas of high IDP return in Gbarpolu County.
World Vision International is resuming its support to several health facilities, including the Sasstown clinic in Bomi County in October. According to the County Health Team, the agency had halted its support to these clinics due to funding shortfalls. Residents in these areas, who have struggled to access basic health care, will welcome the resumption of support to these clinics.
2.2. Lassa Fever and Avian Influenza Awareness in Bong County
In Bong County (central Liberia), the Ministry of Health/WHO and UNICEF organized a workshop on Lassa fever and Avian Influenza (AI) in order to brief the County Task Force members on the diseases, clarify the responsibilities of the Task Force members and other stakeholders, and identify challenges and constraints. The workshop, held on October 5, discussed means and measures of preventing and controlling the two diseases in Liberia and the sub-region. These included the establishment of national and county task forces, regular meetings, and implementation of a monitoring and reporting system.
3. WATER AND SANITATION
3.1. UNICEF Completes Several Projects in Liberia
UNICEF and its partners (LECO and New Era) completed the construction of 16 wells with hand pumps, 16 four-access pit latrines, and 12 wastes pits in Bong County. In Nimba County, the agency funded the construction of 24 wells, 18 latrines, and 10 boreholes fitted with hand pumps. Residents of 4 cholera hot spots in Grand Bassa County also received 5 new boreholes fitted with hand pumps. In Lofa County, the agency through its local partner, LUSE, completed the construction of 3 wells with hand pumps and 8 pit latrines. These facilities would help to increase the availability of safe drinking water and hygienic toilet facilities in the target communities.
4.1. Education Agencies Call for Integrated School Rehabilitation
The Maryland County Education Sector Working Group has called for the inclusion of water and sanitation facilities in all school rehabilitation/construction projects. The group noted that some agencies have either constructed or renovated schools without providing latrine, water, and kitchen facilities, thereby posing a health risk for students and school administrators at these schools.
4.2. UNHCR and UNDP Support School Rehabilitation in Maryland County
The UNHCR-funded Danish Refugee Council school rehabilitation program in Maryland County, southeast Liberia has provided benches, blackboards and chairs to the newly constructed Little Wlebo and Libsuco elementary schools in Harper District. The UNDP Community-based Recovery Program will also fund the renovation of the Cavalla Public and Gbolobo-Kayken schools in Harper and Pleebo districts, respectively.
4.3. IBIS Holds Refresher Workshop on Accelerated Learning Program (ALP)
In Maryland County, the education INGO, IBIS held a refresher workshop for 116 ALP teachers in Harper city, Maryland County from 2-6 October to prepare them for the re-opening of schools. The Accelerated Learning Programme (ALP) will support 3,430 students in 56 schools in Maryland, River Gee and Grand Kru Counties in the new school year.
5. RETURN & REPATRIATION
5.1. UNHCR Commences Repatriation of Residual IDP Caseload
UNHCR marked the start of the repatriation of 5,000 IDPs verified as residual cases in former IDP camps with the transportation of 119 IDPs to Gbarpolu County. The one-time assistance consists of transport by truck to the areas of return, food and non-food items, and secondary transport grant. The process will continue throughout October.
Meanwhile, the agency has reported that there are an estimated 30,000 Liberian refugees in Guinea and Sierra Leone who are yet to be repatriated to Lofa County. The resumption of repatriation from these countries is uncertain, in view of the poor road condition and the unwillingness of refugees to leave behind their expected farm harvest in their countries of refuge.
5.2. US Government Funds IDP Support Program
UNHCR in its capacity as cluster lead for Camp Management, Protection and Emergency Shelter has welcomed the U.S. Government's contribution of US$ 3.45 million towards the inter-agency response to IDPs in Liberia. This includes physical and legal protection, monitoring of conditions of return and reintegration, environmental support, advocacy, judicial and legal reform, gender-based violence and sexual exploitation.
6.1. Change of Focus for UNMIL Quick Impact Projects
Participants at an UNMIL Quick Impact Project (QIP) workshop in Grand Gedeh County were informed about a change in focus of QIP activities to the rehabilitation of judiciary infrastructure. The workshop's purpose was to acquaint participants with QIP procedures and collaboration between UNMIL sections and units for the proper monitoring and management of projects. All current quick impact projects will be finalized in December. The new projects will include rehabilitation/construction of courts, police stations, prisons and other protection facilities. The UNMIL quick impact projects have proved useful in constructing or rehabilitating key roads, educational, health and other social facilities in Liberia. It is expected that the current one-year extension of QIP activities would help improve judiciary and rule of law facilities.