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Nobel Peace Prize, elections and youth

Liberia, October 10, 2011

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Photo: Bija Gutoff/Mercy Corps

With the award of the Nobel Peace Prize last week to three influential women including two Liberians, the world will surely take notice of the October 11th elections in Liberia. On Tuesday, the first female African president seeks reelection in a country that has made undeniable progress to recover from the combined effects of over 14 years of civil war, the global food and financial crises, and from hosting thousands of refugees seeking solace from neighboring conflicts.

Recognition by the Nobel Committee of the important work of peace activist Leymah Gbowee and President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, and the upcoming presidential elections must not, however, hide the reality that millions of Liberians face every day: poor infrastructure, limited access to basic services such as health care, few livelihoods options and a heavy dependence on food imports.

In line with the government’s priorities for reducing poverty and addressing these issues, Mercy Corps has been working since 2003 with Liberian communities to improve food security, agricultural livelihoods, and infrastructure; mitigate conflict; and empower the younger generation.

Youth and children represent 55% of the Liberian population and maintain little interest in agriculture, despite a dire lack of jobs and poor education levels. In response, Mercy Corps, together with our partners, has designed programming to form young peer educators in life skills training, and provide technical and vocational training, apprenticeship opportunities and job placement assistance for youth in urban and peri-urban centers.