Concern Worldwide has been working in Liberia since 1996, alternating between development work and providing emergency aid. Since the country was declared Ebola-free in 2015 and our emergency response concluded, our work has centred on education and integrated programmes in livelihoods, nutrition and water and sanitation.
Liberia's recent history
In January 2018, George Weah was sworn in as Liberia’s new president—the first time since 1944 that a president was brought to power peacefully. His predecessor Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who held power from 2006-2018 was the first elected female head of state in Africa. Though Liberia’s economy improved during Sirleaf’s presidency, the country’s infrastructure—which was largely destroyed during the 14-year civil war—remains in a very poor state. Inflation is rising steadily, pushing the extreme poor further into the margins. Our work in helping to provide a pathway out of poverty for the very vulnerable is focused in Grand Bassa and Lofa counties.
Malnutrition rates in Liberia have remained stagnant for many years. Over 230,000 children in Liberia suffer from chronic malnutrition which can have long-term effects on a child's physical and mental health development even causing death from common childhood illnesses, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia.
In Liberia, Concern is working in 51 villages in Grand Bassa County through an integrated programme to kick-start the livelihoods of nearly 7000 extremely poor people and improve their nutrition. In 2017, the first year of the five-year programme, we established 27 Community Savings and Loan Associations (CSLA) so that communities can plan and grow new businesses, taking charge of their own future.
The CSLAs mean that the very poor can save earnings and access interest-free business loans to develop their small enterprises. Already those who we targeted are experiencing dramatic changes. Some have set up small provisions shops and more than 730 mothers have established kitchen gardens to help diversify the diets of their families and grow food year-round.
Concern’s education programmes in 99 schools in Grand Bassa County reached 6812 primary school children and 386 teachers in 2017. Our work centered on improving the quality of education through teacher training and curriculum development. Through our work with school management committees and Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs), we are supporting schools to improve conditions and the learning environment for children, who can be subject to corporal punishment and gender-based violence. Our work is helping to reduce the dropout rate, especially for girls.
Water and sanitation
Access to clean water gives families more time to earn a living and allows children go to school. Not only does walking for water keep children out of school, it also takes up parent’s valuable time that could otherwise be spent on their livelihoods. Concern is working with communities to promote good sanitation and hygiene practices. Water Management Committees are leading on these activities by focusing on the maintenance of the water supply infrastructure and promoting the health benefits of clean drinking water.
In 2017, we established 30 such committees that we trained on sustainable management and the use and maintenance of water resources. The project was part of an integrated effort to break the cycle of chronic malnutrition and reduce the burden of diarrheal disease on vulnerable children. Almost all of those targeted have changed their common practices of hygiene and sanitation to stem the burden of continuous disease outbreaks. As a follow up in 2018, we are building 15 new wells and rehabilitating a further 15 with the participation of the newly trained committees.
Clean water and proper toilets at school means teenage girls don’t have to stay home for a week out of every month. In two schools in Lofa County, we are building latrines and providing fresh water to ensure that 915 students have access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation facilities.