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Country Reports

Liberia Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

The small West African nation of Liberia (population 4.5 million) is still scarred by effects of the recent Ebola epidemic and a precarious security situation.

AREAS TO AVOID

While British authorities have not advised against traveling throughout Liberia, French authorities still advise against travel throughout the country, except for compelling reasons.

The security situation in the border areas with Côte d'Ivoire remains precarious. It is therefore necessary to be extremely vigilant in the counties of Nimba, Grand Gedeh, River Gee, and Maryland during an imperative travel.

TERRORISM

The threat of terrorism low. However, West Africa has been the victim of various attacks (Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso), travelers should be cautious, especially around locations popular with tourists such as hotels, restaurants, cafes, and beach resorts. British authorities consider the global terrorist threat against UK citizens and interests to be high and rising due to the UK's involvement in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.

SECURITY

Despite stricter controls on the border with Côte d'Ivoire, the eastern part of Liberia can be dangerous due to the continued presence of Ivorian and Liberian militias from conflicts that affected both countries, therefore there is still a risk of instability.

Moreover, organized crime has developed in the region, with an intensification of arms and drugs trafficking. West Africa has become a transit area for both drugs ​​consumption and production. Large seizures by security forces regularly occur. Countries in the region, including Liberia are involved in a multilateral program to fight against drug trafficking and organized crime, and an operational plan was adopted to support this mission. The operation provides for the establishment of joint border patrols, the strengthening of information sharing, and the organization of joint training. Increased border monitoring will also decrease the risk of potential armed incursions and border violence.

CRIME

Due to the remoteness of the Monrovia Airport and the lack of organized transport mode, it is imperative to organize transportation to your place of residence prior to departure.

From a security perspective, there is a relatively high criminal risk in the capital, Monrovia. The crime rate is lower in the provinces. Petty crimes such as robberies, pickpocketing in parked cars, or burglaries are frequent in Monrovia. The use of weapons - particularly knives or machetes during robberies - and the presence of criminal gangs is reported.

Liberians are the main victims of most crimes, but foreign nationals can also be the target of criminals because of their perceived wealth. The districts of Mamba Point and Sinkor in Monrovia are particularly affected. Particular vigilance should also be exercised around the Red Light, Waterside, Congo Town, ELWA junction areas, as well as in all markets. Caution is also required in nightclubs, taxis, and on beaches. Finally, hotel rooms occupied by foreigners may also be targeted.

The risk of rape is also very high in Monrovia. Cases or attempted cases of rape against foreign nationals have been reported.

Simple precautions should be followed: do not carry valuables, drive with doors locked and windows rolled up, and never resist in case of an attack. French authorities advise women against walking alone on the beach at night and out of the city center (Mamba Point).

Outside the capital, the Liberian police are being organized, but their presence is still low in the counties.

SOCIOPOLITICAL UNREST

Following turbulent and violent presidential elections in 2011, the overall political situation has stabilized, especially since 2012.

Since 2011 the government underwent multiple reshuffles, renewing the political class. However, the executive branch has been subject to severe criticism over allegations of corruption, nepotism, as well as lackluster responses to Ebola and economic stagnation.

The first round of the 2017 presidential elections took place on October 10. Since no candidate won a majority, a second round between the frontrunners George Weah and Joseph Boaki was scheduled for November 7. Nevertheless, the vote was postponed following an appeal to the Supreme Court over alleged election irregularities. Travelers should remain cautious, as sporadic and violent demonstrations can take place during election periods.

Although the country's security situation has largely stabilized since the end of the 1999-2003 civil war, there are continuing concerns over the risk of further conflict. Indeed, large segments of the population continue to be excluded politically, economically, and socially. Moreover, there have been recurrent protests over allegations of government corruption, shortages of food, water and energy, and the precariousness of the economy following the Ebola outbreak. Finally, many former rebels have yet to rehabilitated, raising concerns in the international community over the potential formation of new militias.

SOCIOECONOMIC RISKS and HUMANITARIAN SITUATION

The civil war destroyed the productive capacity of the country, as well as a significant portion of human capital (5 percent of the population was killed, 75 percent of school infrastructure and 95 percent of health facilities were destroyed). Since the end of the civil war twelve years ago, Liberia remains a poor country; the country is ranked among the least developed countries, exhibiting high unemployment (over 70 percent of young people are unemployed or underemployed) and strong social tensions.

Reconstruction efforts initiated by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in power since 2006, were undermined by the Ebola epidemic that plagued the country from 2014 to 2016. Liberia was the most affected country in the region. In an already unfavorable macroeconomic environment, the impact on the economy has been significant: deficits related to health spending, reduction of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) and capital flight. This was compounded by the fall in the prices of iron ores, gold, and rubber, which represent75 percent of the country's exports. Economic activity in Liberia is therefore stagnant: while growth rose to 8.9 percent of GDP in 2013, it fell to 0.7 percent in 2014 and 0.9 percent in 2015.

However, even with the end of the epidemic, announced by the WHO in June 2016, the prospects for economic recovery remain limited. However, the country has significant assets including its raw materials (unexploited forests, diamonds, iron, rubber, of which it is the 9th largest producer). In addition, the lifting of the embargo on timber and diamonds should allow the country to increase its exports. Moreover, the gold mining and agricultural production, which make up 53 percent of the GDP, should help improve economic growth.

HEALTH

The Ebola epidemic decimated some of the medical staff in the front line of the fight against the disease.

Prior to departure, travelers should purchase a health insurance plan covering overseas care and medical repatriation, the latter being highly recommended in case of a significant or urgent health issue.

Travelers entering Liberia are required to present a certificate of immunization against yellow fever. Lassa fever is endemic throughout the country, with a higher risk in the center part of the country, but also in Monrovia. An antiviral is available for Lassa fever but remains unsuitable to the situation on the ground. Since malaria is present throughout Liberia, it is recommended to take protective measures against mosquito bites and consult your doctor regarding antimalarial medications.

Tap water is not safe to drink. Diarrheal diseases are frequent in the country. It is recommended to only drink bottled beverages, to make sure food is properly cooked, and to wash hands several times a day.

To avoid any risk of parasitic infection, it is advised to avoid bathing, or washing clothes in stagnant waters. It is not advised to walk barefoot outdoors. At least 327 cases of schistosomiasis were recorded between September and October 2016 in Gbarpolu County.

Moreover, it is necessary to take precautions against HIV/AIDS, which is highly prevalent throughout the country.

Vaccination against measles is recommended as outbreaks of this disease are often reported. This disease primarily affects children and remains one of the main causes of child mortality in the world today.

31 cases of meningitis were also recorded for the first time in the country in May 2017 - notably in Sinoe, Monrovia, and Grand Bassa counties - resulting in 13 deaths. It is advisable to get vaccinated against meningitis.

The Ebola fever has severely affected Liberia. This outbreak is the largest recorded since the identification of the disease in 1976. Between March 2014 and February 2016, 10,666 cases were registered in Liberia, leading to 4,806 deaths. On June 9, 2016 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the end of the epidemic. The disease is transmitted to humans via direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs, or other bodily fluids of infected animals. The disease can then be transmitted between humans and is highly contagious, particularly during the hemorrhagic phase. Ebola is characterized by the sudden onset of high fever, weakness, joint and muscle pain, and headache. These symptoms are followed by nausea/vomiting, diarrhea, rashes, kidney and liver failure, and, in some cases, internal and external bleeding. To avoid contracting this disease, it is recommended to avoid consuming bush meat and to only handle animals when wearing gloves and appropriate protective wear. Animal products (meat and blood) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption. One should also avoid contact with infected individuals and the objects with which they may have come into contact, and should pay close attention to one's own hygienic practices (e.g. frequent washing of hands and surrounding surfaces).

Finally, public health infrastructure is weak; in case of an emergency, it is advised to head for private health facilities, while, favoring as soon as possible, repatriation. 

NATURAL RISKS

Monrovia is regularly affected by heavy rains between May and November, making it one of the wettest capitals. These rains often cause major flooding and the lack of adequate infrastructure hampers proper drainage. As a result, roads are often flooded and impassable. Mudslides and collapsing buildings are common during this period. It is recommended to become familiar with the areas at risk and to ride in a sports utility vehicle (4x4).

In addition, global warming causes a rise in water levels; the ocean slowly invaded one of the largest slums in the capital, West Point, causing massive population displacement. This situation is likely to trigger diseases such as Rift Valley fever, cholera, and malaria. Global warming induces severe droughts and less regular rainfall that can lead to reduced crop yields and an increase in food prices.

TRANSPORTATION

All Liberian airlines are prohibited from operating in European Union airspace due to poor safety and security standards.

Roberts International Airport is 60 km (35 mi) from the capital Monrovia and is not served by public transportation. It is necessary to organize transportation to your place of residence prior to departure.

Several international companies provide air links to Europe and other African capitals. There are no domestic flights. Disease control measures have been applied flights from Freetown because of the recent Ebola outbreak.

The country suffers - with the exception of Monrovia, Buchanan, Bo Waterside, and Ganta - from unreliable, inadequate, and degraded road infrastructure. During the rainy season (May to November) roads are generally unreliable, especially the unpaved roads that make up most of the road network in Liberia.

The danger of road accidents is high due to a general non-observance of traffic laws, the poor maintenance of vehicles, and the lack of medical care facilities. Due to the lack of public lighting, all night travel should be avoided. This also applies for Monrovia, where some neighborhoods must be avoided (West Point, Somalia Drive, Red Light). All accidents resulting in casualties can provoke the angry of locals and have the potential to escalate into violence. In case of an accident, travelers should not leave the vehicle and go immediately to the nearest police station.

In Monrovia and rest of the country, due to the risk of theft in traffic, it is recommended to ensure that the vehicle doors are locked and the windows rolled up.

Western authorities formally advise against all travel by public transport. It is recommended to use an experienced private driver during a stay in Liberia.

Outside major cities, all travels must be done during the day, with an all-terrain vehicle (4x4), possibly in convoy, equipped with adequate supplies of water, food, and fuel. Travelers should also ensure that the vehicle contains mechanical spare parts (wheels, cables, etc.) and that they have effective means of telecommunication.

Roadblocks run by police are present outside the capital. It is advised to comply with any roadblocks erected by the security forces.

INFRASTRUCTURE

Power generation capacity is weak in Liberia (22 MW), and distribution networks are highly defective. Across the country, only 9.8 percent of the population has access to electricity. Even in the capital, power supply is not guaranteed.

Access to drinking water remains incomplete across the country. In the capital itself, there is no regular supply of water.

Telecommunication networks are poor in Monrovia and non-existent outside the capital.

Travelers should note that accommodation infrastructures remains largely deficient; few hotels can be considered completely safe, including those in Monrovia.

Finally, the use of credit cards is not accepted in Liberia. Some ATMs are present but take only VISA credit cards.

LEGAL

Homosexuality is illegal in Liberia.

It is forbidden to photograph and film the areas around government buildings and convoys of government vehicles.

Finally, trade or transport of rough diamonds is prohibited in Liberia.

Climate

Liberia's climate is equatorial and temperatures are regularly high (varying between 22°C and 33°C). Conditions are very wet and humid along the coast but drier as you head inland.

The dry season lasts from November until March but even during this period skies are often overcast and hazy. The Harmattan, a hot and dry wind from the Sahara, lowers humidity levels when it blows through the country. The rainy season begins in April and brings torrential rains between May and the end of October, with a period of respite in August. High temperatures combined with high levels of humidity often make conditions very unpleasant. Rains are most common along the coast and less common in the east.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 231 Police: 911 or 33 35 613 Fire Dept.: 911 or 33 35 613 Ambulance: 911 or 33 35 613

Electricity

Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz

Outlets:

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