What's going on
Liberia’s recent history (1980 – 2003) has been characterised by violent conflict, causing loss of life of an estimated 270,000 people, displacing 464,000 Liberians internally and forcing 350,000 people to seek refuge abroad. The consecutive civil wars destroyed physical infrastructure such as health facilities, schools and water and electricity supply systems. The conflict also ripped through the socio-economic fabric of Liberian society, breaking down family and social values. Loss of assets, dignity and lives, as well as systematic and endemic sexual violence perpetrated against women and female children. Existing institutions had lost legitimacy and social fabric was damaged. This led to a disintegration of social bonds, disconnectedness, distrust in people and destruction of previous sources of support.
Though peace prevails since the first democratic elections brought to power president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the continuous lack of social cohesion perpetuates existing violent realities of post-conflict Liberia where livelihoods are fragile and there is little respect for others.
The recent outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus shows the fragility of Liberia and lack of trust in (government) institutions out in the open. The government of Liberia had trouble responding to the Ebola crisis adequately, due to its limited capacity, a weak health system and no base of trust among citizens. This has lead to attacks of health centers and workers by frustrated people.
The Ebola crisis has impacted the livelihoods of many Liberians. Directly affected people have lost members of the family, leading to lower labour capacity, lower food security. Those affected indirectly may have increased costs for taking care of other families. Households in Liberia have low resilience to crises. Due to the crisis, farmers produced less vegetables, some were afraid to go to the farm, others could not hire enough labour to maintain the larger farms. Also market access was seriously hindered by closing down of markets and limited transportation available. This has, among other things, led to lack of cash at household level and increased food insecurity. All factors making Liberia vulnerable to new crises.
What ZOA does
ZOA started its work in Liberia in 2003 with emergency relief to refugees and displaced persons. At that time, the country was at the end of the civil war, which had left over a third of the Liberian population displaced.
Today, ZOA's development work is focussed on recovery of livelihoods, addressing long-term needs and opportunities for positive change. ZOA is specialised in food security, sustainable livelihood development, functional adult literacy, WASH, community governance and rehabilitation of social cohesion and trust through capacity building and community based approaches. Due to its long presence in the country, ZOA Liberia has well-established relationships with communities, local leadership as well as local and national authorities, which made it well positioned to execute an Ebola Response.
ZOA's is mainly active in Western-Liberia, in the areas of Montserrado, Margibi and Bong County. Montserrado and Margibi are among the counties worst affected by Ebola.