Joint needs assessment paves the way for peace and development in Liberia
US $ 44 million needed for priority health and water projects over two years
New York, 5 February 2004 - Between now and Friday, the people of Liberia will find out whether the international community is ready to invest in peace, national recovery and the resumption of normal life in their country. For the next two days, the international community including donor nations, Liberia's regional neighbours and non-governmental organizations are meeting in New York to discuss plans for improved access to basic health services, schools, water systems, agricultural development, employment opportunities, governance systems and new measures to protect human rights.
The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), the UN, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have developed the plan for Liberia's reconstruction. The 105 page "Joint Needs Assessment" is a blueprint for national recovery. Today, at the Liberia Reconstruction Conference in New York, NTGL, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), other UN agencies, the World Bank, non-governmental organizations and donor agencies will present this plan and their priorities for reconstruction over the next two years. They know that if the funds can be raised, and the planned international board for monitoring implementation is put in place, they will have made a major contribution to a sustained peace. This will be the springboard for poverty reduction, social transformation and economic development.
Of three million people in Liberia, almost half a million are internally displaced. Approximately 300,000 Liberians are refugees in neighbouring countries, while 73,000 refugees from these countries have sought shelter in Liberia. The prevalence of HIV/AIDS is estimated at 10-12% among adults and is rising. Widespread gender-based violence during the conflict, the predicament of the population, the increase of untreated sexually transmitted infections and low awareness of the risks are the main factors facilitating the spread of HIV/AIDS.
The priorities for 2004-2005, and the strategies for achieving them are detailed in the joint World Bank/United Nations Needs Assessment, undertaken with the National Transitional Government of Liberia. The Needs Assessment process covered 13 priority sectors grouped in nine clusters. Specific attention is given to seven cross- cutting themes: gender, HIV/AIDS, environment, Human Rights, shelter, forestry and media. Priorities include strengthening health care (including HIV/AIDS interventions), education, water and sanitation, as well as redeveloping community systems, restarting government, re-establishing the police, judiciary and prisons, and protecting human rights. The analyses also outline steps to improve economic management and audit systems, to restart the forestry sector, and to address environment and gender issues.
The projected costs is US$ 487.7 million over the next two years, in addition to the US$ 137 million humanitarian appeal launched by the UN in November 2003. Funds will be used to meet urgent humanitarian needs, as well as for reconstruction projects. For example, US$ 27 million will be used for health and US$ 17 million for water and sanitation projects. The money will also fund demobilisation and reintegration programmes for some 50,000 ex- combatants, among them 20,000 children, and support victims of sexual violence, help reduce the impact of HIV/AIDS and provide the necessary support to the reintegration of returnees.
"The people of Liberia have suffered for a quarter century from widespread conflict, violence and human rights abuses. Due to renewed peace, Liberians now dare to have some hope, and they have expectations for their future. If we fail to respond, we will miss a real opportunity to give peace a chance. We simply cannot let the three million people of Liberia down." said Dr David Nabarro, Representative of the WHO Director-General for Health Action in Crises, and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Coordinator of the Needs Assessment for Liberia.
More information about Health Action in Crises at WHO can be found at: disasters
Rebuilding the health system
Little of the health infrastructure that existed before the war is currently functioning: 242 out of 293 public health facilities have been looted or forced to close because of lack of staff or supplies. The situation is worse outside of the cities. Communicable diseases, especially malaria, diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and measles are the major causes of morbidity. Maternal mortality reaches 578 per 100 000 live births mainly because of lack of emergency obstetric care and poor nutritional status of pregnant women. It is believed that 63% of all deliveries occur at home. Less than 10% of Liberians- mainly those in urban and safe areas - have access to any kind of health care.
The requested funds will help strengthen the national authorities capacity to provide better access to effective Primary Health Care (PHC) services, targeting priority health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, mental illness, malnutrition, maternal illness, diarrhoea diseases, and violence - related conditions. They will serve to help rehabilitate key health facilities and train health personnel. The money will also be spent in the management of sewage and solid waste disposal in the capital Monrovia and other places to stem the spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera.