Peace Building & Conflict Transformation
¨ Conflict Mitigation
¨ Peace Education
¨ Community Organizing and Empowerment
In Liberia, between the ages of 15 – 35 years are considered as youth making it unique. The population of Liberia is about 3.5 million (2008 Population and Housing Census) with more than 60% in the category of youth and children. Since the end of the civil conflict, youth perpetrated crimes are gradually growing in Liberia. Many youths have resulted to gang activities including drug addicting, prostitution, armed robbery, etc especially in urban terrains of Liberia making them unproductive citizens. Some of the youth involved were child soldiers during the 14 years civil war. The disarmament packages offered by the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMAIL) especially, the reintegration process was not effective. The duration for training for livelihoods, and molding of the military mindset is never a short process. The DDR process was very short for Liberia giving the nature of the conflict. Replacing the military mind set with civilian life take processes (RHRAP).
Many of the child soldiers were recruited from rural towns and villages by various warring factions. Child soldiers were used to commit heinous crimes and atrocities against their parents, family members and relatives as well as community residents. To this end, formers child soldiers still carried the burden of guilt as perpetrators while the victims are carrying trauma, which makes it difficult for these former child soldiers to return to their respective towns and villages. The Demobilization, Disarmament, & Reintegration (DDR) were not effective for soldiers especially training for livelihoods and reintegration. Today, the guns are silent, but majority of the youth cannot go home due to fear of reprisal from community residents. This has contributed to the huge migration of youth into urban cities where many of them are involved in criminal activities and prostitution for survivals.
The government doesn’t have the capacity at this time to create adequate and effective programs to cater to the needs of youth placing them into disadvantage position. Youth unemployment is very high in Liberia. Even for those who have graduated from universities and other training institutions are out of job.
Additionally, each year, there is an increase in school fees in Liberia and many parents cannot afford to send their children to private schools. Relatively, government elementary and secondary institutions are free of charge, but there are no adequate training/instructional materials and instructors. Students and parents are complaining of bribery where teachers extort money from students, sex for grades, etc. With this, some parents prefer to send their children to private schools, which is very expensive. Although, the issue of corruption and sex for grades are affecting both private and public schools, but is very severe in public institutions with no solution being sort from government.
Even though the government of Liberia has established some vocational institutions to address some of the issues affecting youth such as the Monrovia Vocational Training Center (MVTC), Liberia Opportunity Industrial Cooperation (LOIC), Booker T. Washington Institute (BWI) amongst others. Still the capacity is very low for the number of youth wishing to enroll. Additionally, many youth have graduated from the above training institutions but cannot get job to take care of their livelihoods thus discouraging others to take advantage of the trainings. The Ministry of Youth and Sport has also established the youth voluntary program to assist youth with the opportunity to get to the job market, but is not working well. Many of the youth taking to rural communities to volunteer are faced with incentive problems including finance to continue their stay thus making it useless for them. All of the above seems to be a theory and not practical.
Using funding from ICCO Netherlands, RHRAP in 2012 initiated a pilot youth program for youth of Display, Gbanwea and Buutuo, Nimba County focusing on molding the minds of youth against violence which was very successful as the program went to an end. However, RHRAP has developed a program for youth capacity building at various levels in rural communities of Liberia and seeking for funding from donors. RHRAP is participating in call for proposals, as well as engaging other donors for funding to contribute to making youth productive and law abiding citizens. Program Associates Sumo Harris a youth and Ms. Kotati B. King who is heading the women department of RHRAP are heading this program. This program is meanly focused on disadvantage youth in remote rural communities.
National Disaster (Ebola Virus Disease) outbreak
As the nation faced with the many challenges in restoring accountability, human rights, and democratic governance amongst others, a major outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) surfaced in the Mano River region where more than 8,000 people have reportedly died from the disease. Of the total, it is estimated that over 4,000 Liberians have since died with an overwhelming proportion of suspected cases.
The Government of Liberia in a bid to respond to the Ebola outbreak took some initial steps including but not limited to shutting down all education and learning institutions for time indefinite; sent all non-essential staff (majority of the staff) of all government ministries and agencies on an initial 30 days compulsory vacation which was again extended by a month and State of Emergency declared.
In light of a very weak health infrastructure in Liberia, the spread of the virus became unprecedented. Health workers who are in the frontline were not adequately protected and so many of them including physicians; nurses and aides became infected and died. Consequently, major of health facilities including but not limited to the JFK Memorial Hospital, Redemption Hospital, and St. Joseph Catholic Hospital all in Monrovia; the C.H. Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County, Phebe and C.B. Dunbar Hospitals in Gbarnga, Bong County were shut down. Besides EVD, lots of people with majority being pregnant women and children died of other minor sicknesses since no health facility was operating in the country.
Additionally, the outbreak of the EVD has created lots of social implication on the lives of residents causing untold suffering to huge population including the state as well. Stigmatization and discrimination of EVD survivals, and victims, orphan children as a result of EVD, lost of livelihoods, split in family structures, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of cremation of people who died of EVD among others.
RHRAP has received a pilot grant from ICCO Netherlands under the Liberia Community Development and Governance Program (LCDGP) to fight against stigmatization and discrimination within communities largely affected by the EVD and this program is currently going on and will end in March 2015.
Additionally, RHRAP and Finn Church Aid (FCA) signed an Agreement to implement a social mobilization program in Gbarpolu an initiative intended to curve the EVD spread and it social impacts. This funding is being provided by Mercy Corps to FCA with RHRAP being the implementation partner. All of the above are contributing to the eradication of EVD, and the resolution of its social impacts in Liberia. The FCA & RHRAP EVD Program will end in April in line with Mercy Corps program. To this end, RHRAP is seeking for funding to extend it program including addressing the plights of orphans caused by EVD.