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Liberia

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General

Liberia is located on the northwest coast of Africa, on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  In addition to the Atlantic Ocean, Liberia is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Cote d’Ivoire.  Liberia received its independence July 1847, as a haven/country for the many freed slaves coming from the Americas, and enjoyed somewhat stability in its history.  Today’s population, however, is mostly comprised of an indigenous African population, with the slave population comprising only 5%.  For many years, Liberia experienced relative stability, however in the past two decades, Liberia has seen tremendous problems and obstacles in its path. A civil war that started in the early 1980’s and last from 1980’s-1996 destroyed much of Liberia's economy, especially the infrastructure in and around Monrovia, the capital. The years of fighting coupled with the flight of most businesses have disrupted formal economic activity.  Many businessmen fled the country, taking capital and expertise with them. Some returned however many will not return since the stability has not fully come back to the country.

Seven years of civil war ended in 1996 when free and open presidential and legislative elections were held.  President/Head of State Charles G. Taylor, since 1997, now holds strong executive power with no real political opposition.  The government encompasses   dual systems of statutory law; one based on Anglo-American common law for the modern sector and one based on customary law based on unwritten tribal practices for indigenous sector. In addition to the President, there is a Cabinet whose members are appointed by the president but confirmed by the Senate.  The Senate and the House of Representatives are popularly elected bodies comprising of various delegates representing the people.   The only judicial system in the country is the Supreme Court, which many people say is just another system that agrees with whatever the government does. 

The economy of Liberia has been seriously damaged by the civil war and the ensuing instability that followed the war.  The democratically elected government inherited massive international debts and currently relies on revenues from its maritime registry and timber industry to provide the bulk of its foreign exchange earnings. The restoration of the infrastructure and the raising of incomes in this ravaged economy depend on the implementation of sound macro- and micro-economic policies of the new government, including the encouragement of foreign investment. Recent growth has been from a low base, and continued growth will require major policy successes and containment of armed rebellion.

Other problems besides the economy hinder growth and prosperity in Liberia.  A still unsettled domestic security situation has slowed the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country. In 2001, the UN imposed sanctions on Liberian diamonds along with an army embargo and a travel ban on government officials for Liberia's support of the rebel insurgency in Sierra Leone.  Some environmental issues that plague Liberia are tropical rain forest deforestation, soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and pollution of coastal waters from oil residue and raw sewage

Liberia is composed of many ethnic groups and indigenous African tribes that comprise 95% of the population.  These tribes include Kpelle, Bassa, Gio, Kru, Grebo, Mano, Krahn, Gola, Gbandi, Loma, Kissi, Vai, Dei, Bella, Mandingo, and Mende.  The other percentage of the population cover the Americo-Liberians (2.5%) who are descendants of immigrants from the US who had been slaves, as well as the Congo People (2.5%) who are descendants of immigrants from the Caribbean who had also been slaves.  Due to the great number of indigenous tribes, indigenous beliefs/religions also thrive.  These local beliefs comprise 40% of the population, with Christians comprising 40% as well, and  Muslims comprising the remaining 20%.  Even though the indigenous population is the majority, English is the official language.  However, only 20% of the population speak English, with the rest relying on some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and the majority are used in correspondence

Liberia is richly endowed with water, mineral resources, forests, and a climate favorable to agriculture, Liberia had been a producer and exporter of basic products, while local manufacturing, mainly foreign owned, had been small in scope.  Its natural resources consist of iron ore, timber, diamonds, gold, and hydropower. 

Education
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Liberia’s education system has also suffered due to the civil unrest in the country.  Due to this fact, only 38.3% of the total population can read or write.  Out of this figure, 62.3% of females and 29.9% are literate.  However, these levels are increasing as a result of the recent stability in the country and the money the government has invested into improving school system.  More than 70% of the females and 90% of the males attend primary school, whereas only 19% of the females and 30% of the male population attend secondary school. 
Health
As a direct result of the civil war, the health of the common person living in Liberia has deteriorated.  During the civil war the government could not keep its focus on maintaining or improving the national health care, and for this reason the system deteriorated.  Another result of the war was the downturn of the economy, which resulted in over 80% of today’s population living in poverty.  As with other systems affected by the war, the healthcare system is beginning to get back to a position where it can handle the needs of the people of Liberia.  In the meanwhile, the infant mortality rate  is 111 per every 1000 births, while the under 5 mortality rate is 185 per 1000 born.  These numbers have been dropping due to the end of the civil war, after many years of climbing upwards. 
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Food & Diet
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A fourth affect the war had on Liberia was the destruction of many of its crops.  Because Liberia is in a tropical climate with fertile lands, agriculture is a major part of life in this country.  The agriculture business, exports, cultivation, and other daily tasks involved in agriculture were disrupted due to the war.  Since the war has ended the agriculture has picked up tremendously, but many people are still in need.  The main diet of the population in Liberia contains 2.176 kcal per day, with 2.108 kcal coming from vegetable and .068 kcal coming from Animal sources.  The main vegetables of the diet are cereals, the majority being rice and wheat.  As well as cereal sources, starchy roots such as cassava and potatoes also make up a big part of the diet. As one can see, agriculture plays a major role in the diet of the population of Liberia.  Agriculture is also the biggest employer of the population, with 80% of the workforce working in agriculture-related jobs. 
Indicators

  

Population         

 

 

 

 

 

1991

1995

1999

2002

Total (millions)

1,800,000

1,900,000

 

3,288,198

% < 5 years

   328,313

   297,672

 

   598,126

% 5-14 years

   495,305

   590,660

 

   817,949

% > 14 years

1,068,446

1,091,262

 

1,872,051

 

 

 

Population Growth Rate

1970-1990

1990-2000

 

1.91

TFR (Total Fertility Rate)

1990

2000

6.8

6.0

Under- five Mortality Rate

1990

2000

 

185

IMR (Infant Mortality Rate)

1990

2000

168

111

MMR (deaths per 100,000 live births)

 

% Pregnant Women Immunized against Tetanus

1998

 

DPT Immunization (% < 12 mths)

 1990

  1995

  2000

 

 

 

Measles Immunization (% < 12mths)

 

 

 

 

 

Economic

 

 

 

 

GNP (US $ billions)

2000

 

3.6

 

GNP per capita at PPP

2000

1,100

GNP annual growth rate

1998-2000

5

% Below Poverty Line ($1/day)

 

 

% Government expenditure on Health

1992-2000

 

 

%Government expenditure on Education

1992-2000

 

 

 

 

 

 

Education        

 

 

 

 

 

1990

1995

1999

2002

Literacy pop. over 15

 

 

 

 

Females

76.9

71.1

 

62.3

Males

44.7

38.2

29.9

Gross Primary School Enrollment

(% of age group)

 

 

 

 

Females

23

20

 

70

Males

35

30

 

95

Gross Secondary School Enrollment

(% of age group)

 

 

 

 

Females

 8

 7

19

Males

20

18

 

30

 

 

Health and Nutrition

 

 

2000

% of Births Attended

 

% Pop. Access Improved Sanitation

1990-96

 

% Pop. Access Improved Water

1990-96

 

% Pop. living with HIV/AIDS,

(age 15 -49)

2001

 

Weight/Age (% less than –2 z-score)

 

Height/Age (% less than –2 z-score)

 

Exclusively Breastfed (0-3 months)%

 

Food and Dietary Indices

1980

1990

1995

2000

Total Calories Consumed (kcals/day)

 

 

 

 

Animal Sources of food (% of total kcal)

 

 

 

 

 

Sources

    1.  http://www.census.gov/ipc/www/idbpyr.html 

    2.  http://www.worldbank.org/poverty/wdrpoverty/report/ 

    3.  http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/index.html 

    4.  http://apps.fao.org/page/collections?subset=nutrition 

    5.  http://genderstats.worldbank.org

    6.  http://www.undp.org/hdr2002/indicator/ 

    7.  http://www.paho.org

    8.  Europa World Year Book 2001, 42nd edition, 1st volume