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No Access: The Ziah’s Struggle For Basic Needs And Livelihood In Liberia

Louise Mariano Liberia 

Liberia is situated in Western Africa, bordering Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. The country is a presidential republic led by President George Manneh Weah from the Congress for Democratic Change, elected in January 2018. The government is divided into 15 administrative counties, Monrovia being its capital.

Liberia’s current population is about 5.1 million, with 16 ethnic groups. Its largest ethnic group, the Kpelle, makes up 20.3% of the central and western region population. According to the latest United Nations Multidimensional Poverty Index, about 63.9% of Liberia’s population is below the poverty line. Relatedly, 53.9% of the population lives in urbanized areas such as Monrovia, while 46.1% live in rural areas. 

One of the 15 counties of Liberia is Nimba County, situated in the northeast of the country and is bordered by Rivercess, Grand Gedeh, and Sinoe. Nimba is generally rural based, with most of its population being farmers. One of the main cities in Nimba is Tappita City, home to various schools, health care centers, and hospitals. Tappita City, compared to Monrovia, is underdeveloped in terms of roads and infrastructure development. Close to Tappita’s vicinity is the Ziah Region. Although it is not a formal division, the Ziah region falls under District #9, containing several towns such as Ziah towns, Kpeletuo, Gbi & Doru, and Yarwien-Mehnsonoh. The majority groups in the Ziah region are the Gio, Mano, Mandingo, and Gbi.

 Central Intelligence Agency. (2021, March 9). Liberia – The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/liberia/#introduction Ibid

 Central Intelligence Agency. (2021, March 9). Liberia – The World Factbook. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/liberia/#peopleandsociety

UNDP. (2020). Multidimensional Poverty Index: developing countries.http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/2020_mpi_statistical_data_table_1_and_2_en.pdf

 Holsoe, S. E., & Petterson, D. R. (2020). Liberia | History, Map, Flag, Population, & Facts. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/Liberia

 County Development Committee & Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs and Internal Affairs. (2008). Nimba County Development Agenda. https://www.emansion.gov.lr/doc/NimbaCDA.pdf page 1

 County Development Committee & Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs and Internal Affairs. (2008). Nimba County Development Agenda. https://www.emansion.gov.lr/doc/NimbaCDA.pdf page 7

 County Development Committee & Ministries of Planning and Economic Affairs and Internal Affairs. (2008). Nimba County Development Agenda. https://www.emansion.gov.lr/doc/NimbaCDA.pdf page 6

 

In contrast, the minority groups consist of the Gpaba, Makinto, Krahn, Grebo, Mende, Loma, Baa, and Kpelle. Over the years, the ethnic groups in Nimba county have been interlinked through marriage. The Gbi ethnic group resides in Gbi & Doru, situated south of Tappita, comprising forested land. The primary language spoken in the town is Mano, mainly spoken in Nimba county.

Inaccessible Roads

The main issue within the Ziah region and the Gbi & Doru town is the deplorable condition of the roads connecting the Ziah region to Tappita City, where the main schools, markets, health centers, and hospitals are located. Citizens of the Ziah region have pleaded to President Weah for roads to link their community to Tappita City. The citizens opened roads connecting the community to Tappita in 1930. The latest rehabilitation of these roads initiated by the government was in 1979, and has not been rehabilitated or fixed. The County Development Committee made plans in March 2009, however, there has been no further action from the government. This made accessibility to markets, schools, health care centers, and hospitals difficult, making daily living extremely difficult for the people of Ziah. The citizens have been pleading to the county’s local authorities to rehabilitate the roads, their last outcry being February 2021. In the same month after the citizen’s outcry, President Weah has promised more development packages for the county, which is still yet to be completed. 

Limited access to healthcare

The roads being in a deplorable condition resulted in the citizens of the Ziah region having limited access to health centers and hospitals. There are no available health centers within the area’s small towns in the vicinity of Tappita City. As a result, the residents must walk 25–30 kilometers from the Ziah region to access the nearest hospital in Tappita City. Ambulances cannot drive through the roads because of their unsafe conditions. Pregnant women, children, and sick people die on their way to seek medical attention at the nearest hospital. Adding to the drastic consequences of inaccessibility to health facilities is the current Covid-19 pandemic. In September 2020, the first 5 cases of Covid-19 had reached Nimba County. Due to the limited resources in the county, there is a backlog regarding reporting cases of Covid-19, which only shows the limited accessibility of health care centers and hospitals that are of utmost importance during the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Efforts to build health centers in the region remain unfinished, therefore having little effect in helping the citizens of the Ziah region. In 2012, the Ministry of Health and the Nimba County Health Team had failed to open a clinic in the area. The building is now being used as a shelter for domestic animals. In 2016, the town of Gbi & Doru was promised a ‘modern health clinic, which is yet to be completed.

Limited access to livelihood

Citizens of the Ziah region are primarily subsistence farmers. Usually, the farmers take their products to the market and use this income to purchase basic materials to take back to their towns. However, due to the roads’ condition, it would take 2.5 hours of walking from most parts of the region to Tappita’s commercial center. As a result, citizens are left stranded      with no income to purchase their basic needs.

Conclusion

As seen above, because 46.1% of Liberia’s population is in rural areas,  a gap exists in lifestyle between the urbanized areas, such as in the county of Nimba, specifically in the Ziah region. Citizens struggle to access healthcare and basic necessities due to the underdevelopment and dilapidated      roads connecting the region to the main city, Tappita City, where the various schools, health centers, hospitals, and commercial centers are situated.

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