Learning to be Young: Rehabilitating Liberian Children
The people of Liberia have endured more than most. From
1989 until 2003, Liberia experienced just three years of peace between two
successive civil wars that left more than a quarter of a million people dead and
dealt a devastating blow to the nation's economy. Now, a decade after the
fighting stopped, Liberia is still struggling to rebuild in the aftermath of the
bloody conflict. With a population of approximately 3.7 million people, 80 percent of
whom live below the poverty line, Liberia faces considerable challenges in
the years ahead.
The Scars of War
was a major factor behind the eruption of the first Liberian civil war, which
culminated in the involvement of the United Nations and Economic Community of
West African States. During the war, children were routinely forced to fight as
child soldiers, and many smaller rural communities were left abandoned as
families fled the violence. Terrible atrocities were committed during the war,
and millions of people were displaced to neighboring countries such as Sierra
Leone. Even during the three years of relative peace that followed the end of
the conflict, the violence did not fully subside, as skirmishes and localized
battles still flared up in some parts of the country.
The psychological scars
of warfare are difficult to handle for even experienced soldiers but
can be devastating for young children. Forced to commit brutal acts of
violence out of fear for their own safety, many children drafted by rebel forces
were left isolated and vulnerable at the conclusion of the war. Aside from
shouldering the emotional burden of fighting, children returning to their
communities were often shunned by parents struggling to rebuild in light of the
bloodshed. In some cases, children were viewed as liabilities or even
commodities, with many children sold into labor. Others became victims of
domestic and other types of abuse.
Even children fortunate
enough to have a home following the end of the civil war still face a range of
serious problems. ChildFund came to Liberia at the conclusion of the second
Liberian civil war in 2003 and found that despite nationwide efforts to rebuild
the country's devastated educational system, many
children still lacked access to basic education. Today, Liberia's new
government, particularly President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, recognizes the
importance of education and rehabilitation efforts in the country. Earlier this
was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the Liberian Ministry of
Gender and Development's Child Protection Network, and ChildFund's CEO Anne
Lynam Goddard met in 2011 with Johnson Sirleaf, known as Liberia's "Iron Lady,"
the progress that has been made in expanding the accessibility of
educational opportunities to the country's children.
To help children
re-enter society, ChildFund has introduced interim care centers to offer former
child soldiers and displaced children the opportunity to play, grow, learn and
address the past. In addition, our community education and investment project
has provided more than 110 schools across Liberia with much-needed academic
materials, including around 75,000 books.
ChildFund recognizes the
importance of helping children learn to be young and the value of empowering
communities to rebuild after years of fighting. Although significant progress
has been made, there is still much to be done before the children of Liberia can
enjoy a healthy, happy future. To help ChildFund continue to provide for
communities in need, please consider making a donation to our Essentials
for Survival fund. For just $15 per month — around 50 cents per day — you
can help us provide clean drinking water, food and basic health care that is
crucial to children's development.
Alternatively, making a
donation to our Children's
Greatest Needs program allows us to empower women and young girls in
communities affected by gender inequality, expand limited educational resources
in some of the world's poorest communities and teach families about the
importance of good nutrition.