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ZOA leaves Liberia: Respect for the zest for life and resilience of Liberians 

ZOA is leaving Liberia. After nearly twenty years of emergency aid and reconstruction, the time has come to transfer everything to local partners. “We are leaving a legacy of good, lasting change in Liberia. But the Liberians themselves have tackled poverty and suffering with great resilience,” says ZOA's country director in Liberia, Jaap van Kranenburg.



We were there, from relief to recovery

The resilience Jaap speaks of, is admirable. The people of Liberia have endured a lot in recent decades: two bloody civil wars in a row (from 1989-1996 and from 1999-2003), followed by a devastating Ebola epidemic in 2014. And still, it's not always easy to live in this country.

More than half of the Liberian population lives in poverty and many people have no access to clean drinking water and/or sanitation. Due to the civil wars, mutual distrust often runs very deep. But gradually, people start to work together more and they can provide for their livelihood. After twenty years of reconstruction, during which ZOA worked together with the Liberians to create a healthy, resilient society, ZOA is now transferring its projects to local organisations.

A selection of our activities in the past 20 years:

Emergency aid: food, clean drinking water and shelter for (returned) refugees in Liberia after the civil war in 2003 and for victims of the Ebola epidemic in 2014.

Safe (drinking) water: for improved hygiene and sanitation. The ZOA team in Liberia is working on this with the Practica Foundation from the Netherlands and MaDriccol, a consortium of eight Liberian hand drilling companies. More than 300 water points have been installed or repaired. By manually drilling boreholes, the water quality is high and the costs are low.

Children in Liberia

To fight poverty and hunger, many projects focus on livelihoods and food security. For example, farmers receive training in new agricultural techniques. ZOA takes the entire process into account – from revenue to sale on the local market or to large companies. After rice, cassava is the most important food crop in Liberia. Various products can be made from cassava, such as cassava flour, cassava starch and adhesives.

How do you get children from families living in poverty to go school? By feeding them at school. In Margibi County, at least 2,000 children in 7 schools receive a nutritious meal every school day. This project boosts the local economy, feeds empty stomachs and improves school performance.

In efforts to resolve and prevent conflicts, ZOA pays specific attention to the roles of women and people with disabilities. Women are supported to take their place in society, beside - and not below  - men in patriarchal Liberian society.

Since the start of the activities in 2003, ZOA has been working to strengthen mutual trust and develop good social relations. This is being done through Community Based Sociotherapy (CBS) or sociotherapy. In groups, participants talk about topics from everyday life. What do you do if you disagree with your neighbour? What example do you want to set for your children? The therapy makes traumas from the war negotiable.


Sociotherapy has been provided in 8 of the 15 provinces in Liberia. The number of qualified trainers has doubled from 8 to 16. The trainers have now set up their own organisation: Peace Hub Liberia. No less than 98 per cent of the 30,000 CBS participants indicated that they have grown as a person and that their behaviour has changed. People feel calmer, have more self-confidence and self-knowledge, less fear, stress and anger. That also helps their family lives.

Jaap van Kranenburg: “I have enormous respect for the zest for life and resilience of the Liberians. They had a lot on their plate: civil wars, Ebola - plenty of reason to be disappointed. The impact was enormous. But the foundations for further reconstruction have been laid. We hope and pray that the Liberians will have a bright future ahead.” 

Read more about Community Based Sociotherapy in Liberia