The Republic of Liberia is located in West Africa and it is one of the poorest countries in the world. It was started as a settlement for emancipated slaves from the United States in 1822, and was established as a republic in 1847.
The US began investing in Liberia during the Second World War, stimulating a period of modernization. In spite of a tumultuous century of political unrest, in 2005, elections were held that were widely regarded as the most open and fair in the country’s history.
Liberia was ranked 175th on the United Nations Human Development Index in 2013. It is a poor nation with around 64% of its population living below the poverty line.
Liberia’s hospitals and medical facilities are poorly equipped and there are no emergency services. In addition, blood supplies are both unreliable and potentially unsafe, and medications are in very short supply. The large ebola outbreak in 2014 has further taxed the local healthcare infrastructure. Even with the country declared ebola-free by the WHO in May 2015, expatriates are strongly advised to take enhanced precautions and to follow public health advice.
Considering the state of local healthcare, expatriates thinking of traveling to Liberia should fastidiously prepare a kit containing adequate supplies of prescription medications and any other general medicaments. Getting a private health insurance coverage that also covers medical evacuation is strongly recommended.
Other health risks in Liberia include a widespread prevalence of malaria, even in the country’s capital Monrovia. In 2013, a UNAIDS Report on the global AIDS Epidemic indicated that an estimated 30,400 adults aged over 15 in Liberia were living with HIV, this amounts to an approximate 1.09% of the population. Normal precautions should be taken by expats regarding HIV/AIDS and malaria.
Expatriates should be cautious when travelling outside of Liberia’s capital Monrovia as the national authorities and UN are limited in their ability to assist in case of emergency.
There is a possibility of violent incidents in rural areas stemming from land disputes, illegal mining or the occupation of rubber plants. Regarding the latter risk, when travelling within the Firestone rubber plantation, expats should avoid deviations from major routes.
Crime levels are high in Liberia and the Liberian National Police are very limited in their ability to prevent or detect criminal activity and, as mentioned previously, cannot provide widespread emergency service.
Theft is common, some of which is opportunistic but also organized; armed violent gangs exist in Liberia. Expatriates should remain alert while in Liberia, as their relative wealth makes them a target. Avoid walking alone or after dark wherever possible.
Particular areas to take care in include the Mamba Point and Sinkor areas of Monrovia where the majority of international visitors are based. Nightclubs and beaches are other areas where expats should take care, as criminals are known to operate in these places.
With all of these risks in mind, expatriates should devise a comprehensive security plan before alighting in Liberia that will protect them for the duration of their stay.
Liberia’s transportation infrastructure is rudimentary. Historically, Liberia had three railway links but these were damaged during the civil war and only one has been restored. No rail links to other countries exist at present in Liberia.
Liberia’s road network is extremely changeable; roads within the capital and those to the Roberts International Airport, the port town of Buchanan, the border with Guinea at Ganta, the border with Sierra Leone at Bo Waterside are all paved and relatively well maintained.
The majority of other roads in Liberia are unpaved making for some dangerous driving conditions, especially during the rainy season (May to September).
Expatriates should expect to be stopped at checkpoints operated by UNMIL, the Liberian National Police, or other Liberia security services while driving.
No international flights take place to Liberia from the EU as the nation has been unable to ensure that the standards of the airlines in Liberia meet the required threshold of safety.