CRS in Liberia
In Liberia as in the rest of the CRS world, overcoming challenges is a long process, but changing people’s lives is not. CRS aims at the local communities and success can be stunningly rapid. At the same time, we work in close collaboration with the Government of Liberia, the Catholic Church, and other partners to ensure that this success is sustainable.
Though we have complex tools and systems to assure our work is both successful and sustainable, there is nothing better than hearing the people we serve tell us directly that their lives are better today as a result of activities that we have undertaken together.
Liberia is a rich and beautiful country with abundant natural and human resources. Even the climate is favorable with plenty of rain to support agricultural activity. Despite the recent tragedies of war and disease the country and people are rebounding. The civil war ended with the country’s infrastructure totally destroyed so re-building will take time, but the potential for future growth is great. The most important thing will be good leadership, and continued support from Liberia’s friends. — William Rastetter, country representative, CRS Liberia
CRS PROGRAMMING IN LIBERIA
CRS work in Liberia over the years has included both emergency response and development programming. In 2016, after intense focus on an Ebola outbreak, CRS progressed from recovery activities and began implementing development programming in community health, peacebuilding, youth livelihoods and urban water, sanitation and hygiene. However, since March 2020 this has been happening in the context of the global COVID-19 epidemic which only adds to the challenges of Liberia’s fragile socioeconomic environment.
Health System Strengthening
Nearly 30% of Liberians have limited access to quality basic health services, exacerbated by a lack of skilled personnel, essential medicines, and equipment, and they are consequently more likely to experience poor health. To address these key issues, CRS began implementing the Liberia Health Systems Strengthening project in order to improve:
- household-level health behaviors
- faith-based health facilities’ ability to provide quality basic health services
- accountability mechanisms between communities, health facilities, health networks and government health teams.
This assistance has been in collaboration with the National Catholic Health Commission (NCHC). As a major intervention, CRS trains community health facilitators identified by community members to lead communities to develop health action plans that serve the people. In response to the added challenge of CODIV-19 we have been providing essential protective equipment to allow health workers to continue their work in safety.
Liberians have seldom experienced a healthy social contract between citizens and the state. Land disputes, ethnic rivalries and clashes, and limited state capacity for peaceful resolution of disputes explain Liberia’s propensity for conflict. For positive peace to take root and prevail, Liberians must find ways to reconcile, overcome mutual mistrust, and live in harmony.
To contribute to these efforts, CRS has been implementing the USAID-funded Connect for Peace (C4P) project, a 3 year initiative to support peace efforts in Nimba County and Monrovia. Building on our success, USAID has extended their support for another year, and we are now negotiating a further three years of support for our peacebuilding activities. The project uses CRS’ innovative methodology to promote healing and reconciliation and to strengthen vertical and horizontal social cohesion in and between key social groups and state actors in Nimba County and Monrovia.
To help ensure that Liberian youth participated responsibly in the 2017 presidential election and post-elections processes, CRS implemented the Promoting Positive Engagement in the 2017 Elections by Youth in Montserrado County project targeting young people in 50 communities in Careysburg and Todee Districts. The project helped ensure that youth had access to accurate election information and actively promoted peaceful behavior. Voter education campaigns were carried out in target areas involving peer-to-peer education led by youth voter education volunteers, social mobilization activities, a radio campaign, social media and a voter engagement call center and hotline. We hope to continue some of these activities as we approach the December 2020 mid-term elections.
Three-fourths of Liberian youth are engaged in some form of self-employment with many struggling to make a living. A weak business environment, a lack of entrepreneurial education, poor access to startup capital and weak social and business networks are some of the key barriers impeding successful youth entrepreneurship.
To address these issues, CRS implemented the Activating a Supportive Platform for Young Rural Entrepreneurs (ASPYRE) project that targeted youth across communities in Todee District, a rural district in Montserrado County.
ASPYRE supported young people as they develop their own sustainable businesses. The project teaches entrepreneurial skills, access to financial services, and engagement with private sector businesses. It links youth to viable market-based work opportunities and technical training, promotes saving, and creates opportunities for youth to grow their professional networks and social connections for positive business outcomes. The project uses the I am an Entrepreneur curriculum to teach foundational entrepreneurial skills and the knowledge needed for youth to start a first business. At the close of the course, participants emerge with the confidence, practical experience, and skills to successfully begin their first business endeavor.
Country News and Stories
October 30, 2019
Young Liberians Return After Perilous Migrations
Creating economic opportunity leads to hope for a better future at home.
September 16, 2019
Strengthening Liberia’s Disaster Preparedness
A fire that destroyed the homes of 160 people shows the need for effective readiness and emergency response.
September 14, 2018
Working Together for Peace in Liberia
Shared labor—and its results—helps break barriers to trust and mutual respect.
September 12, 2018
Supporting Youth and Business in Liberia
A CRS project provides training and a competition that awards loans to aspiring entrepreneurs with winning ideas.
CRS' History in Liberia
First, it is important to understand the unique relationship Liberia and the US have had for well over 100 years. Though Liberia is one of only two countries in Africa that were never colonized, there is a rich – and at times tragic – history which ties us together. These strong ties continue up to today. In many ways Liberia looks to US leadership in the world, and they have proven to be a loyal friend as well.
The complex political history of Liberia culminated in a decade and a half of terrible civil war from 1990. A short time later while struggling to move beyond the violence of war to development, the country was again hit by tragedy in the form of the Ebola virus. This was a massive setback to what had been a promising start back on the road to development and democracy.
Today, however, Liberia is again on the road to development under the leadership of a new government. In close collaboration with the international community the Government is implementing a “ pro-poor” agenda, with an aim of creating jobs and stimulating the economy. This is being led in part by many Liberians returning home after spending years in the US getting educated and developing key skills. Nonetheless, in the short term, Liberia needs help in addressing essential needs of the people. In this context CRS is also redirecting our efforts and resources in the areas of rural health, urban sanitation, youth employment, and strengthening civil society’s capacity to maintain peace in the country.
CRS has already invested in each of these areas and we now look to expand these investments reaching a larger population. For this we need the continued support so generously given in the past to meet emergency needs. Now we are re-building the country. — William Rastetter, country representative, CRS Liberia
Committed to Liberia
CRS first began working in Liberia in 1957, with a permanent country program office opening in 1990. During the ensuing 14+ years of conflict and war, CRS was one of the few agencies to maintain a constant presence in the country, providing life-saving humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people.
With the establishment of peace, CRS wanted to redirect its efforts to the rebuilding of a peaceful society, but these efforts were undermined by another national tragedy. The first cases of Ebola were confirmed in Liberia in March 2014, leading to an unprecedented outbreak of the virus the country. Owing to the contagious nature of the virus, major health facilities closed to protect their staff. This contributed to high mortality rates from other sicknesses. CRS provided support to the response to the outbreak in the country, working with faith based partners to improve water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, establish triage, isolation/holding areas, and train medical staff in infection, prevention and control in targeted health facilities. The main objective of these interventions was to ensure that these facilities could continue routine services through the provision of quality and safe health care within the faith based health network. In 2016 CRS was again able to move from recovery to development programming.
CRS and partners focused increasingly on reconstruction and development activities, working in health, agriculture, livelihoods, peace and justice, and micro-savings responding to the new challenges faced by a peaceful and developing country.