The people of Liberia have seen violent conflicts spanning more than 30 years between 1979 and 2003, including a military coup d’état in 1980, widespread violence during military rule and two civil wars. As a result of these conflicts, the national GDP fell by a catastrophic 90 percent between 1987 and 1995, one of the biggest economic collapses ever recorded in the world.
The recent Ebola virus outbreak caused significant socio-economic disruptions, with the World Bank estimating a cost of $234 million—12 percent of the GDP.
Liberia has reduced chronic malnutrition rates among children under age five from the level of “critical” to “serious,” according to WHO classification. However, six of Liberia’s 15 counties still have critical levels of chronic malnutrition.
Despite substantial national deficits in infrastructure and social service delivery, the Government has embarked on an ambitious plan to make Liberia a middle-income country by 2030.
WFP has been present in Liberia since 1968. In support of the Government’s vision of a “hunger-free Liberia,” this work entails:
- School meals: WFP provides school meals to primary schoolchildren and take-home rations to girls in grades four through six from highly vulnerable poor households in the most food-insecure counties. WFP also works to enhance the monitoring and management capacities of the Ministry of Education at the central, county and district levels.
- Livelihood assets and market promotion: WFP targets six counties through these programs.
- Through livelihood assets promotion, the UN agency aims to stimulate agricultural production and enhance the resilience of rural communities to economic shocks, food insecurity and natural disasters. This involves assisting vulnerable communities in rehabilitating lowland rice fields and small-scale irrigation schemes, as well as rehabilitating feeder roads and bridges.
- Through market promotion, the UN agency enables Liberia’s smallholder farmers—a high proportion of whom are women—to supply quality rice surpluses first to WFP and then, in the long run, to Liberian consumer markets, thus increasing their income.
- Community grain reserves: WFP aims to strengthen the resilience of poor households to seasonal food insecurity, economic shocks and natural disasters by establishing women-managed grain “banks” in food-deficit smallholder farming communities. The UN agency provides an initial capital stock of 30 metric tons—more than 66,000 pounds—of milled rice. Thereafter, community members can access grain on loan at a low interest rate during times of scarcity and repay in cash or in-kind after the harvest.
- Support for refugees: WFP has been supporting refugees from Côte d’Ivoire in Liberia since 2010. The extension for this program is in its final stages; available resources will only allow WFP to provide food assistance with further reduced rations of rice and oil. UNHCR has continued its repatriation exercises. However, a significant number of refugees are expected to remain behind, based on interviews held with refugee representatives and UNHCR estimates.
Logistics infrastructures built by WFP during the Ebola response are being transferred to the Government. WFP is also providing the Government with the necessary skills to manage the infrastructures and supply chain system.