Situation of children and women in Liberia
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Situation of children and women in Liberia
In Liberia, exclusion, inequality and underdevelopment are now being addressed, as President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf starts her second six-year term. The government’s Agenda for Transformation 2013-2017 (AfT/PRS2), is aimed at supporting the goal of achieving middle-income status by 2030. The Children’s Act, launched in February 2012, reflects the principles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The United Nations Mission in Liberia has guaranteed security, though its presence will shrink over the next five years.
Liberia’s population of 3.5 million as of 2008, may rise to 5 million by 2018, given the country’s growth rate of 2.1 and total fertility rate of 5.8. The 2008 census report 1.65 million people living in urban areas and 1.8 million children under 18 years. The poorest quintile has double the fertility of the wealthiest quintile. Life expectancy is 57 years, and 84 per cent of the people live on less than $1.25 per day. The gross domestic product per capita is only $396 ( 2011 Human Development Report), and Liberia ranks 182 out of 187 countries on the 2011 Human Development Index.
The UNICEF situation analysis 2012 and the Equity and Inclusion Analysis 2011 identify key issues that inform the new programme: (a) the rights of women and girls, undermined by gender-based violence and inappropriate initiation of sexual activity; (b) children’s migration to urban areas for education, putting them at risk of labour and sexual exploitation; (c) inadequate adolescent-friendly reproductive health services; and (d) young people’s lack of preparation for employment. Inequity in access to services and inequality in outcomes are extreme between wealth rankings, counties and urban-rural location, and services are not responsive to the local context. Data averages hide extreme pockets of urban poverty.
Between 2000 and 2007, the infant mortality rate improved from 117 per 1,000 live births to 71 per 1,000 live births. But infant mortality in the South-Central region is double that of Monrovia, and there is a difference of almost 50 per cent between the poorest and the wealthiest quintiles. Routine immunization rose from 39 per cent (2000) to 75 per cent in 2011 as a result of UNICEF-supported programmes. However, immunization coverage in the South-Eastern region was only one quarter of that in Monrovia (LDHS 2007- Liberia Demographic and Health Survey ). Stunting puts 42 per cent of children at risk of impaired cognitive development.
The maternal mortality ratio showed a troubling trend, worsening from 578 per 100,000 live births (2000 LDHS) to 990 per 100,000 live births in 2011 (Human Development Report 2011). The trend worsened despite improvement in access to antenatal care: in 2008, just 37 per cent of pregnant women had four or more antenatal visits, compared to 66 per cent of women receiving such visits in 2010. Only 7 per cent of babies are registered (though the figure was 4 per cent before a 2011 campaign).
Eleven per cent of girls marry by age 15 and 38 per cent by age 18, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in 2008. Twenty per cent of girls experience sex before age 15, one in seven against their will. A third of girls aged 15-19 are mothers or pregnant, and girls in south-eastern Liberia are four times more likely to be married early than girls living in Monrovia. In 2007, HIV prevalence among women aged 15-49 years was 1.8, compared to 1.2 for men. In 2007, 58 per cent of women (ages 15-58 years) were estimated to have undergone genital cutting.
Only 40 per cent of people have access to water points, based on normal capacity of 250 persons. Only 4 per cent of rural households use improved sanitation facilities, compared to 21 per cent in urban areas, while 49 per cent practice open defecation.
Liberians attach great importance to education, but the basic education system continues to fail children due to access and quality issues. The resulting migration puts girls particularly at risk. Of the 20,547 disabled children recorded in the 2008 census, only 7,125 children with significant disabilities are in school.
Liberia is likely to meet the Millennium Development Goal 1 hunger target and Goal 3 (empowerment of women). It is likely to achieve Goal 4 (reduce child mortality), Goal 6 (combat HIV/AIDS) and the malaria target. The country is unlikely to achieve the poverty target of Goal 1 or Goal 2 (primary education), Goal 5 (maternal health) or Goal 7 (ensure environmental sustainability).