Monday, November 17, 2008

A Little Bit of Background

I think it will be helpful to understand a few facts about the country of Liberia and some of its history, so I've put together a few details that I've gathered from numerous sources. Hopefully the following will give you a glimpse of the great many challenges that the country has experienced, and is experiencing even today.

The country...Liberia

After 14 years of civil war, Liberia is the second poorest country in the world. The war being the most deadly and devastating ever fought in Africa, has left nearly ¼ million orphans in a country of 3.4 million people.

There is no electricity, running water or mail service. Generators, wells and cell phones are a luxury. Unemployment is approximately 90% and illiteracy is 85%, yet there is still great hope for this nation.

Some history

Liberia was founded, as a colony, by the United States in 1822. In 1847, freed slaves (who were brought to Liberia) from the United States declared independence and founded the Republic of Liberia. In 1980, the government was overturned in a military coup, and from 1989 to 2003 Liberia was in a state of unrest, enduring the First Liberian Civil War (1989-1996) and the Second Liberian Civil War (1999-2003).

Over the years the United States has played an important role in the continued economy of Liberia. In 1926 Firestone opened the world’s largest rubber plantation in the country. This plant employs around seven thousand workers that tap native trees to drain latex for the production of tires in the United States.

Another important role the US has played in Liberia was during World War II. The United States began giving technical and economic assistance by providing personnel to assist in building the Roberts International Airport and the Freeport of Monrovia.

In the early 1980’s, the United States paid Liberia $500 million for pushing the Soviet Union out of their country and allowing the United States exclusive rights to the Liberian ports for use in spying on Libya.

14 Years of War

The 1989-1996 Liberian civil war, which was one of Africa's bloodiest, claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Liberians and further displaced a million others into refugee camps in neighboring countries. Entire villages were emptied as people fled. Soldiers stole children, committed atrocities, raping and murdering people of all ages, in what became one of the world's worst episodes of ethnic cleansing.

Liberia's civil war claimed the lives of one out of every 17 people in the country, uprooted most of the rest, and destroyed a once-viable economic infrastructure. The strife also spread to Liberia's neighbors, contributing to a slowing of the democratization that was progressing steadily through West Africa at the beginning of the 1990s and destabilizing a region that already was one of the world's most marginal.

The Second Liberian Civil War began in 2002 and ended in October 2003, when United Nations and United States military intervened to stop the rebel siege on Monrovia and exile Charles Taylor to Nigeria. By the conclusion of the final war, more than 250,000 people had been killed and nearly 1 million displaced.

Facts about Liberia

  1. Area: 43,000 square miles
  2. Population: 3,489,072
  3. Language: English
  4. Capital City: Monrovia
  5. Life Expectancy: 40 years
  6. Infant Mortality: 156 deaths/1,000 live births
  7. Unemployment: 90%
  8. Illiteracy: 85%
  9. Health Care virtually non-existent
Hopefully this has given you a brief glimpse into the challenges that are faced in Liberia. Our hearts truly go out to the people. When we reflect on how much we have, we're blessed beyond measure in comparison.