Dependence and Devastation in Liberia: Global Food Prices Wreak Havoc in Monrovia

Action Against Hunger releases report on the impacts of the world food crisis in Liberia.

The humanitarian organization Action Against Hunger / Action Contre la Faim (ACF) released a report detailing the devastating impact of rising food prices in Monrovia, Liberia where vulnerable communities can no longer feed themselves and rates of acute malnutrition are rising dramatically. Action Against Hunger has recorded a 40% increase in admissions to therapeutic nutrition programs in Monrovia from January to June of 2008—a clear indication that vulnerability has become acute as rates of malnutrition climb.

Action Against Hunger’s therapeutic nutrition programs are now in crisis mode: Our stabilization centers are swamped with new cases—emergency capacity is being built to handle upwards of 3,600 children at a time; new feeding centers are being deployed to ensure that 26,000 of the most vulnerable children in Monrovia have at least one meal a day; and our teams are targeting pregnant and breast-feeding women for emergency distributions of food vouchers.

Action Against Hunger calls on the international community to commit the resources needed to fully address the brunt of the global food crisis—in both the short- and long-term—and prevent this emergency from becoming a full-blown public health emergency.

Documenting Dependence & Devastation: Liberia in Crisis

Action Against Hunger’s latest field-based report documents the on-the-ground impact on and extreme vulnerability of the Liberian population as it struggles with the global food crisis. The report focuses on the severely compromised state of Liberia’s food security. Particularly prone to international market instability, Liberia’s economy, infrastructure, and agricultural sector were destroyed by 14 years of civil war. With a heavy reliance on imported food and oil, the Liberian people are subject to immediate deprivation when global commodity prices spike. Their dependence on external sources of food undermines the population’s purchasing power and nutritional well-being—resulting in a market-induced public health crisis.

The Global Food Crisis in Liberia: Investing in Solutions

Action Against Hunger’s recommendations call for both immediate and long-term measures to help rein in the crisis, meet immediate needs, and reinforce livelihoods for the thousands of newly vulnerable families:

  • Make Malnutrition a Priority: To save lives through the treatment and prevention of acute malnutrition, donors must support increased capacity in therapeutic nutrition programs. Funding needs are also desperate for short-term feeding programs for an estimated 26,000 children who must be guaranteed at least one meal a day.
  • Targeted Voucher Distributions: Pregnant and breast-feeding women must receive special supplements to ensure their health during critical stages of early child development.
  • Long-Term Investments in Food Security: Funding must be made available to address the root causes of Liberia’s current crisis: dependence on external food markets. Community development programs aimed at revitalizing local agriculture, improving market development, and reinforcing income-generating activities must receive support if we are to avoid such crises in the future.

The Need For International Commitments

Liberia’s crisis is a tremendous setback for a country that had been hopefully transitioning toward development. Beyond the human toll, the global food crisis threatens to jeopardize the reconstructive efforts that have been carried out since the end of the war five years ago. While many governments and political actors have made statements on the importance of dealing with the global food crisis—even detailing how they would finance humanitarian efforts if a country were suddenly hard-hit by the food crisis—the troubling case of Liberia demands action, not more promises.

Special Report on Liberia: Surge in Basic Commodity Prices

The international food crisis has been widely documented: dramatic surges in basic commodity prices have provoked global riots and is considered a serious threat to the food security and stability of many populations. Vulnerability to external shocks depends on many factors: over-dependence on food imports, government structures, the health of local food markets, political stability, living standards, etc. Liberia’s context highlights vulnerabilities in all of these categories. ACF’s latest report documents the on-the-ground impact on and extreme vulnerability of the Liberian population as it struggles with the global food crisis.

Action Against Hunger in Liberia

Action Against Hunger has worked in Liberia since 1990, implementing therapeutic nutrition programs in Monrovia and water and sanitation and food security activities in Lofa and Nimba. In 2007, Action Against Hunger helped more than 70,000 people in Liberia.