Area: 111,370 sqr. km.
Population: 3,334,587 (July 2008 est.)
Official language: English
Ethnic groups: Indigenous African 95%, Americano-Liberians 2.5%, Congo people2.5% (descendants of freed slaves from the Caribbean)
Religion: Christian 40%, indigenous beliefs 40%, Muslim 20%
Human Development Index ranking: –
Literacy rate: 57.5%
HIV/AIDS: 2-5% (Unicef 2003 est.)
Total orphans as a percentage of all children: 11.5% (Unicef 2006)
SOS Children’s Villages in Liberia:
In 1970 the country’s social problems and particularly the growing number of orphans, induced Victoria Tolbert, spouse of the state president at that time, to contact Hermann Gmeiner, the founder of the SOS Children’s Villages. She discussed the possibility to establish an SOS Children’s Village in Liberia and tried to convince him of the necessity. Hermann Gmeiner agreed to the idea, and consequently, in August 1978 the government transferred a property in Matadi, a district of Monrovia near the “James Payne” airport, to SOS Children’s Villages. So, the first SOS Children’s Village with adjoining kindergarten and youth facility came into being between November 1978 and 1980. The national SOS Children’s Village Association of Liberia was established as legal entity for the SOS Children’s Village works in the country in 1978 too. At the beginning of 1981, construction work on the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia was completed and the first children could move in together with their village director Rev. D. Kennedy Wlue.
Due to the great shortage of good schools in the vicinity of the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia, an SOS Hermann Gmeiner Primary and Secondary School was established on a neighboring property of the village in 1984. This school provides the SOS children as well as the children from the neighborhood with a good education. Since the demand for care facilities for abandoned and orphaned children in Liberia was constantly rising, in 1988/1989 the second SOS Children’s Village with an adjoining kindergarten and school was established in Liberia, namely in Juah Town in the country’s interior.
At the beginning of 1990, a terrible civil war broke out in Liberia, which was particularly fierce in the country’s interior. As a result, the SOS Children’s Village Juah Town could only start operating at the end of the war after a general reconstruction in August 2000. During the war years, the SOS Children’s Village Monrovia always remained a safe haven and also provided the neighborhood with protection and help.
As an example, in April 1996 and in July 2003, when the fighting in Monrovia was at its worst, approx. 7,000 people sought refuge in the safe village while fleeing from plunderers and pillaging gangs. In the village they received food and medical attention during three months.
After the heavy fighting in 2003, the United Nations have intervened to stabilize the situation in the country. Since the SOS Children’s Village Association of Liberia could not operate during the war years, it was newly founded in 1999 and became a member of the umbrella organisation SOS-Kinderdorf International in May 2000. In January 2006 Ms Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is sworn in as President of the Republic and starts with an ambitious programme for rebuilding the country.
At present there are two SOS Children’s Villages in Liberia, one SOS Youth Facility, two SOS Kindergartens, two SOS Hermann Gmeiner Schools, one SOS Medical Centre and one SOS Social Centre running a Family Strengthening Programme.