Current Situation of Children and Child Labor in Liberia and Sierra Leone Term Paper

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Children and Child Labor in Liberia and Sierra Leone

Two of the world's most beautiful countries are also, unfortunately, the poorest as well. The nations of Liberia and Sierra Leone are faced with a number of severe obstacles in their quest to join the international community and diversify their stagnated and monolithic economies; while much remains to be done, some progress has been made. In this regard, a brief overview of each country is followed by a discussion of these challenges as they directly affect the children of these two countries; a summary of the research is provided in the conclusion.

Liberia.

General Economic and Political Situation. A costly and bloody civil war and government malfeasance have adversely affected much of Liberia's economy, particularly the infrastructure in and around Monrovia, the capital; in addition, continued international sanctions on diamonds and timber exports will constrain the growth of these major industries in the near-term.

Further, a number of businessmen have emigrated, taking scarce capital and expertise with them in the process; while some of these individuals have returned, it is expected that many more will not. While the nation enjoys abundant supplies of water, mineral resources, forests, and a favorable climate, Liberia has been restricted to a colonial-level economy, and the country does not have any value-added industries to speak of, basing its economy largely on raw timber and rubber.

In addition, the manufacturing component of the economy remains small and owned primary by foreigners. The U.S. government reports that the departure of the former president, Charles Taylor, to Nigeria in August 2003, the establishment of the all-inclusive Transitional Government, and the arrival of a UN mission, were all considered essential for the eventual end of the political crisis; however, to date, these events have not affected economic development in any substantive way. In the final analysis, the reconstruction of infrastructure and the improvement of wages in Liberia will depend on generous financial support and technical assistance from donor countries.

Major Exports. Rubber, timber, iron, diamonds, cocoa, coffee.

Major Industries/Sectors of Employment. Rubber processing, palm oil processing, timber, diamonds.

Primary Languages. English 20% (official), some 20 ethnic group languages, of which a few can be written and are used in correspondence.

Primary Religions. Indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%.

Sierra Leone.

General Economic and Political Situation. The 1991 to 2002 civil war between the government and the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) resulted in tens of thousands of deaths and the displacement of more than 2 million people (about one-third of the population), many of whom are now refugees in neighboring countries.

With the support of the UN peacekeeping force and contributions from the World Bank and international community, demobilization and disarmament of the RUF and Civil Defense Forces (CDF) combatants has been completed. National elections were held in May 2002 and the government continues to slowly reestablish its authority; however, the gradual withdrawal of most UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) peacekeepers in 2004 and early 2005, deteriorating political and economic conditions in Guinea, and the tenuous security situation in neighboring Liberia may present challenges to the continuation of Sierra Leone's stability.

Major Exports. Diamonds, rutile, cocoa, coffee, fish (1999).

Major Industries/Sectors of Employment. Diamond mining; small-scale manufacturing (beverages, textiles, cigarettes, footwear); petroleum refining, small commercial ship repair.

Primary Languages. English (official, regular use limited to literate minority), Mende (principal vernacular in the south), Temne (principal vernacular in the north), Krio (English-based Creole, spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who were settled in the Freetown area, a lingua franca and a first language for 10% of the population but understood by 95%)

Primary Religions. Muslim 60%, indigenous beliefs 30%, Christian 10%.

General Description of Poverty Situation.

Liberia. In August 2003, a comprehensive peace agreement ended 14 years of civil war and prompted the resignation of former president Charles Taylor, who was exiled to Nigeria. The National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), which is comprised of rebel, government, and civil society groups, assumed control of the country in October 2003. Chairman Gyude Bryant was given a two-year mandate to oversee efforts to rebuild Liberia and heads the new government today. The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), which maintains a strong presence throughout the country, completed a disarmament program for former combatants in late 2004; however, the security situation remains uncertain and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country continues to take longer than expected.

Population:

3,482,211 (July 2005 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 43.6% (male 765,662/female 751,134)

15-64 years: 52.8% (male 896,206/female 940,985)

65 years and over: 3.7% (male 64,547/female 63,677) (2005 est.)

Median age:

total: 18.06 years male: 17.69 years female: 18.42 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.64% (2005 est.)

Birth rate:

44.22 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Death rate:

17.87 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: at least 200,000 Liberian refugees are in surrounding countries; the uncertain security situation has hindered their ability to return (2005 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.95 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 1.01 male(s)/female total population: 0.98 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 128.87 deaths/1,000 live births male: 135.64 deaths/1,000 live births female: 121.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 47.69 years male: 46.75 years female: 48.65 years (2005 est.)

HIV / AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

5.9% (2003 est.)

HIV / AIDS - people living with HIV / AIDS:

100,000 (2003 est.)

HIV / AIDS - deaths:

7,200 (2003 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever vectorborne diseases: malaria and yellow fever are high risks in some locations water contact disease: schistosomiasis aerosolized dust or soil contact disease: Lassa fever (2004)

Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone is an extremely poor African nation with tremendous inequality in income distribution. While it possesses substantial mineral, agricultural, and fishery resources, its economic and social infrastructure is not well developed, and serious social disorders continue to hamper economic development. Approximately two-thirds of the working-age population is employed in subsistence agriculture; the manufacturing sector is primarily comprised of processing raw materials and light manufacturing for the domestic market. Plans to reopen bauxite and rutile mines shut down during an 11-year civil war have not been implemented due to lack of foreign investment.

Alluvial diamond mining remains the major source of hard currency earnings. The fate of the economy depends upon the maintenance of domestic peace and the continued receipt of substantial aid from abroad, which is essential to offset the severe trade imbalance and supplement government revenues. International financial institutions contributed over $600 million in development aid and budgetary support in 2003.

Population:

6,017,643 (July 2005 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 44.7% (male 1,318,508/female 1,371,164)

15-64 years: 52% (male 1,494,068/female 1,637,276)

65 years and over: 3.3% (male 93,047/female 103,580) (2005 est.)

Median age:

total: 17.53 years male: 17.2 years female: 17.84 years (2005 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.22% (2005 est.)

Birth rate:

42.84 births/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Death rate:

20.61 deaths/1,000 population (2005 est.)

Net migration rate:

0 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: refugees currently in surrounding countries are slowly returning (2005 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 0.96 male(s)/female

15-64 years: 0.91 male(s)/female

65 years and over: 0.9 male(s)/female total population: 0.93 male(s)/female (2005 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 143.64 deaths/1,000 live births male: 161.06 deaths/1,000 live births female: 125.69 deaths/1,000 live births (2005 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 42.52 years male: 40.13 years female: 44.98 years (2005 est.)

HIV / AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

7% (2001 est.)

HIV / AIDS - people living with HIV / AIDS:

170,000 (2001 est.)

HIV / AIDS - deaths:

11,000 (2001 est.)

Major infectious diseases:

degree of risk: very high food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever vector-borne diseases: malaria and yellow fever are high risks in some locations water contact disease: schistosomiasis aerosolized dust or soil contact disease: Lassa fever (2004)

Situation of Children.

In any setting, human rights are most abused in civil wars or widespread ethnic violence and women and children are generally those who suffer most.

While the cultural context of a given society determines the categorical boundaries in which adolescence is understood, in every society there exists a transitional period between childhood and adulthood, between innocence and responsible behavior. As could be reasonably expected, young children in Liberia and Sierre Leone who have been affected by war and violence represent a more vulnerable group than their counterparts elsewhere; one obvious reason is the breakdown of family and other social frameworks that in times of normalcy provide the institutional basis by which adolescents are socialized into the roles they are expected to assume as adults. "In the refugee setting," Bruce says, "adolescents are overlooked in programming. Education, where it exists, is for primary school children, vocational and skills training are…[continue]

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