- A majority (59%) of Liberians say parents are "sometimes" or "always" justified in using physical force to discipline their children. But opposition to physical discipline has doubled since 2018, to 41%.
- A majority of Liberians say child abuse and neglect (63%) and out-of-school children (83%) are frequent problems in their community.
- Fewer than four out of 10 Liberians say resources are available in their community to help abused and neglected children (39%), children with disability (38%), and children and adults with mental or emotional problems (36%).
- Most Liberians (83%) say the government is doing a poor job of protecting and promoting the well-being of vulnerable children.
The United Nations (1989) Convention on the Rights of the Child and the 2012 Children’s Law anchor Liberia’s efforts to safeguard the rights of its children, who make up about half of the country’s population.
But despite gains in child survival and development, Liberian children face many barriers to health and well-being (UNICEF, 2016, 2021; World’s Children’s Prize, 2020). One in 13 children – about 11,000 every year – die before age 5, most often of preventable causes. Only two out of 10 children have access to adequate sanitation facilities. Half of schools lack water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) facilities (UNICEF, 2021). More than a third of adolescents are out of school altogether (USAID, 2020; World’s Children’s Prize, 2020).
The Liberia Demographic and Health Survey highlights that 32% of children aged 5-17 are engaged in child labour, with 30% working in dangerous conditions (Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, 2021; Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2019). Some 85% of children under age 15 experienced violent discipline during the month before the survey.
While reliable data on sexual and gender-based violence are not available, girls under age 15 bear the heaviest burden (Seagbeh, 2022). Among 15- to 19-year-old women who have heard of female circumcision, 28% have undergone this form of mutilation (Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, 2021).
This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ attitudes and perceptions related to child welfare.
In Liberia, survey findings show that a majority of citizens support the use of physical force to discipline children and see this as a common practice in their community.
Most citizens say child abuse and neglect and out-of-school children are frequent problems in their community. But fewer than half say that support services are available in their community for abused or neglected children, for children with disability, and for children and adults with mental or emotional problems. And most Liberians are dissatisfied with the government’s performance on child welfare.