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Liberia

Liberia is a small country situated on the coast of West Africa with just over 3 million inhabitants. Fourteen years of civil war have taken an enormous toll on the population; an estimated 85% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Even prior to the devastation of the most recent conflict, 35% of the population were undernourished; 25% of the population had access to safe water and some 78% of the population were illiterate.

One year after the fall of the government of Charles Taylor, Liberia is a country that is so poor and chaotic that it has fallen off the UN Human Development Index.

It is a country, which remains in a state of development limbo. The key to allowing major development work to take place is the issue of security.

UN troops have spent the last year disarming former fighters, many of whom were children. Now that the weapons are off the street the challenge is to try to reintegrate an entire generation of young men, women and children that grew up in a country torn apart war, into a fragile and volatile society, which has been devastated by years of conflict and where unemployment currently stands at a stunning 80%.

Conflict is not uncommon in Africa but Liberia's history is an example of the depths to which people can be driven. It is hard to keep up with the different tyrants that have oppressed this country and all for personal gain.

The Irish Army are at the forefront of a 15,000 strong force of UNMIL peacekeepers that have brought stability to the country. The Irish Battalion are the Rapid Reaction Force and regularly patrol the country in force to remind both ordinary people and would be rebels that violence will not be tolerated.

Meanwhile, UNMIL have supervised the disarmament of over 60,000 combatants. This process has not been without its detractors with international agencies highly critical of paying child soldiers for guns. A practice, which they believe, condones the use of children as soldiers.

However, some point out that this is the reality of life in Liberia. Children as young as eight years old are hardened killers.

Soldiers are there to provide the security so that humanitarian organisations may do their work. The distinction is important. If there is a blurring of the lines, aid workers can be seen as military targets and are thus unable to function.

Liberia
Liberia