Liberian Orphans

The civil war that raged in Liberia for fourteen years cost 250,000 lives out of an already small population of 3.5 million and an estimated hundreds of thousands of Liberian orphans in a country ill-equipped to deal with them; its economy destroyed, its infrastructure in tatters and a society divided and suspicious of neighbour on neighbour.

Many of these orphans had been recruited as child soldiers and, after the war ended, were treated as pariah's by their own communities whom they had been unleashed upon. They were also severely traumatised, hardly surprising when 87% had seen a family member

killed, 60% had seen other children beaten to death whilst 84% reported that they had experienced being "surrounded by, lying underneath or stepping on" dead bodies. Without family nor friends to care from them, those who didn't end on the streets ended up in orphanages which became big business after the war ended, with well intentioned, but often misguided attempts to manage the Liberian orphan population.

Orphans in LiberiaThe UN mission in Liberia reported that "Children living in Liberia’s orphanages are denied basic rights – ranging from the right to development and health, to the right to identity, family, education, leisure and participation in cultural activities.” Worse still, there were allegations of fraud and corruption with the number of orphanages in Liberia rising ten fold in the wake of the war. Liberia's deputy health minister for social welfare commented "Most of the children living in almost all of the orphanages in this country are not actual orphans, but have been used by orphanage owners to seek external funding for their personal gains.”


Liberian Orphans

Liberian Orphans

Liberian Orphans

Liberian Orphans


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Liberian Orphans

Effectively some children were being brought to orphanages to swell numbers or where families ties could be identified, efforts to reunite the 'orphans' with their families were thwarted in fear of losing funding.

Liberian OrphansIronically many of these 'orphans' actually had fathers, they were just unknown, as their father's had been peacekeepers at the end of the war who got thousands of women pregnant then left Liberia at the end of the conflict, unaware or disinterested in their off-spring.

Although the orphanages were poorly equipped both physically and staff wise, they often offered a better alternative than living on the streets, where an estimated 1500 children, some as young a four years old, ended up at the end of the war, with their numbers swelled by a further 1845 who worked on the streets but returned home at night.

There is another group of Liberian orphans, those left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. This number is estimated to be around 15,000 although some put the figure much higher at 36,000.According to UNICEF as of 2009 there were a total of 340,000 Liberian orphans; this out of a total child population of some 1,878,000 and a country of just three and a half million people ~ that's around one orphan to be supported by nine other citizens in what's already one of the poorest countries in the world.

This video provides insights into the lives of Liberian orphans today and the work being undertaken with them by the aid agencies. You can help when you sponsor a children in Liberia by checking out our Liberian child sponsor page above.


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