Liberia is among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 174 out of 186 countries in the 2012 UNDP Human Development Index with a population of 3.8 million and an annual growth rate of 2.6 percent. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) is US$374 and 64 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line (World Bank, World Development Indicators Database, 2011). Adult literacy is 60.8 percent, 64.8 percent for men and 56.8 percent for women (UNESCO Institute for Statistics, 2010).
Endowed with vast and varied natural resources, a large biodiversity, lush vegetation and a climate favourable to agriculture, Liberia has enormous potential in mining and ecotourism, as well as food and cash crop production. But decades of economic plunder and social disinvestments, amplified by two civil wars, eroded human capital, laid waste to social infrastructure and ravaged productive assets.
The 2010 Comprehensive Food Security and Nutrition Survey (CFSNS) conducted in May-October 2010 found that net enrolment of primary school-age children remains low at 45 percent for boys and 42 percent for girls. Liberia’s attainment of the completion point for the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative has led to the waiver of nearly its entire external debt that stood at $4.9 billion in 2010. Through this debt relief, Liberia’s development prospects appear more promising. However, a full national recovery is still to be achieved as the social, economic, infrastructural, and human capital costs of the war continue to linger.
A low-income and food-deficit country, Liberia relies heavily on food imports. Liberia is particularly vulnerable to economic shocks and fluctuations in global market prices for agricultural commodities due to low productivity and high dependency on importation for all basic commodities. Some 41 percent of households have inadequate access to sufficient and nutritious food; 13 percent are severely food-insecure, and 28 percent are borderline food-insecure. Acute malnutrition among children under 5 is 2.8 percent while the national average for stunting prevalence is 42 percent, surpassing the World Health Organization’s “critical” threshold of 40 percent in rural Liberia (CFSNS, 2010).
As a key partner in the food assistance sector, WFP has put in place operational response to support the government and instituted immediate food assistance that is being closely monitored and adjusted according to prevailing circumstances. In 2013 WFP will merge its portfolio in Liberia into a single, coherent delivery platform as part of WFP – Liberia’s country programme, drafted to support the Government’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (2012 -2016) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (2013 – 2017).