The State of the Liberian Child

By Francis W. Nyepon

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
December 31, 2009


Today, as 2009 comes to a close, education, healthcare, sanitation, safe drinking water and basic environmental services are luxuries not rights for many children in Liberia. Children are born into a country filled with miserable poverty, squalor conditions and rampant diseases that are preventable. Nearly a million children go through life on a daily basis in a serious struggle to survive, finding their way through life unparented, abandoned, neglected, malnourished, impoverished, uneducated, and discriminated against. For many, childhood, as a time to grow, learn, play and feel safe is in effect meaningless, denying them true joy of living altogether. Many children never get to see their fifth birthday due to preventable diseases and squalor living conditions.

Corruption, patronage, mismanagement, squalor and harsh environmental conditions still exacerbate conditions of poverty amongst children across Liberia. These conditions cause many parents to abandon their children to institutions, orphanages, the streets and adoption. Children’s progress in Liberia has come a long way from the widespread hardship they experienced during past two decades; however, far too many children still lives in chronic poverty without equal access to opportunity for better health, education, and future success.

Since 2006, the Sirleaf administration has devoted between 14-20 per cent of the national budgets to basic social services -- health, education, nutrition, sanitation, waste collection and clean water -- that benefit children most. This author believes that the Sirleaf administration needs to invest at a bare minimum 30 per cent of the country’s annual budget to basic services affecting children and promulgate targeted policies to enhance and improve their lives.

Additionally, the Sirleaf administration must forged new alliances with all civil society groups not only with those that are supporters and allies. But, also with those who are critics and detractors, and who by their standing can objectively offer constructive alternatives to assisting the administration tackle preventable diseases, provide safe drinking water, promote adequate toilets, and encourage proper hygiene promotion at every sector of the Liberian society.

This author calls on the Sirleaf administration to establish an independent department of children services and seek to build a children’s hospital catering specifically to children health issues. Additionally, the administration needs to review and strengthen children’s rights through the enactment of laws, which gives children explicit recognition as individuals. The rights of children as individuals, rather than members of a family must be expressly stated in national policy formulation under this administration. In order for children to take their rightful place in today’s Liberian, the Sirleaf administration must find the political will to fundamentally root significant social transformation that specifically benefits children and their families.

The State of the Liberian Child in 2009:

One in four children in Liberia falls prey to death before their fifth birthday due to preventable diseases such as measles, diarrhea, and malaria. For instance, diarrhea is the leading cause of preventable death amongst children says UNICEF, and WATERAID. Yet, this gigantic killer of children is systematically neglected by the Ministries of Health and Social Welfare (MOH), in favor of the reckless and bogus policy of the Department of Social Welfare that depicts adoption as child trafficking, which it is not.

Over 75% of them struggle with daunting and dehumanizing social challenges resulting in 25% of them dying before age 5;

Over 40% of them do not have safe, accessible drinking water;

Over 19% of them die from diarrhea and infectious conditions caused by waterborne diseases;

Over 75% of them do not have access to adequate toilets;

Over 36% of them die from malaria and other poverty-related illnesses;

Over 85% of them have no access to adequate waste management or hygiene practices;

Over 37% of children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition with 7% of them suffering from acute malnutrition, causing stunting in nearly one-third, and leaving 1 in 5 underweight.

Over 500,000 children in Liberia are not in school. UNICEF says, of those enrolled in school, 42% of them sit on the bare floor without desks, or properly trained teachers to provide appropriate instructions, and adequate books to learn from;

Over 230,000 children are unparented, orphaned and abandoned with no strategic planning from the Ministry of Health and others on critical children’s issues except for the sensational, reckless and bogus claim that Intercountry adoption is child trafficking.

Today, Liberia is not on target of meeting most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015 as agreed to at the United Nations in 2000. The MDGs set a framework for how the world could see the end of extreme poverty by the world’s poorest. The eight MDGs reflect an understanding of the devastation caused by global hunger and poverty and aim for a world that is free of such suffering. MDGs are to reduce hunger, provide access to primary education, and provide access to clean water; prevent children from dying of poverty-related illnesses, HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Under the Sirleaf administration, Liberia has the means and the knowledge to protect and develop the lives of its children and diminish enormously their suffering. However, the administration must now muster the means, garner the political will and apply the practical knowledge, which exist on the ground, to make good on its promises to the children of Liberia. This author believes that the Sirleaf administration should affirm children's rights by improving children’s health, education, sanitation, water, and hygiene as critical stimulus to improving the prospects for their success. This is the test and yardstick from which to measure the kind of leadership that needs to be demonstrated in 2010 for the sake of the children and not for politics, patronage, party, ethnicity or family connection.

About The Author: Francis Nyepon is Country Director of the Wes African Children Support Network (WACSN) and managing partner of DUCOR Waste Management in Liberia. He is a policy analyst and Vice Chair of the Center for Security and Development Studies, and serves on several boards of humanitarian, environmental and human rights organizations in the United States and Liberia. He can be reached at

© 2009 by The Perspective

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