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Child and adolescent health

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The Liberia demographic and health survey 2007[1] reported that the infant mortality rate in Liberia declined from 144 deaths per 1000 live births in 1986 to 71 deaths per 1000 live births in 2007, thus contributing toward achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4.

The under-five mortality rate followed the same trend, declining from 220 deaths per 1000 live births in 1986 to 110 deaths per 1000 live births in 2007. However, despite the progress that has been made, many health problems persist.

The full vaccination coverage rate remains low (51%) and malaria, acute respiratory infection, diarrhoeal diseases and malnutrition remain the main causes of deaths in children aged under 5 years.

To address these persistent challenges, a number of interventions to increase child survival were developed, including the 2009 Community Health Strategy.

This section of the Child and adolescent health profile is structured as follows:


Analytical summary

By the age of 15 years, approximately 11% of Liberian girls become pregnant and by the age of 19 years, 62% are pregnant.[2] A total of 26% of adolescent pregnancies are unintended, while 30% of pregnancies among adolescents end in unsafe abortions.[3]

Adolescents are more likely to engage in unprotected sex, which can result in pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. School attendance by girls is still lower than for boys and dropout rates are higher for girls. This directly affects their reproductive health decision-making, such as the use of various family planning methods and ability to negotiate safe sex.[2]

The Comprehensive food security and nutrition survey 2010 found that nationally 42% of Liberian children aged under 5 years are stunted, increasing their risk of dying from normal childhood illness and risk of chronic illness later in life. Rural areas have more cases of stunting than urban areas. Montserrado has the lowest prevalence at 31%, while nine other counties exceed 40%.[4]

Immunization coverage by antigen and county, 2001. BCG, Bacille Calmette-Guérin; OPV, oral polio virus; penta, pentavalent; YF, yellow fever [5]

The National Nutritional Policy was developed in 2009 to improve the nutritional status of the population, especially children. The National Food Security and Nutrition Strategy is multisectoral and oriented toward communities, households and individuals to reduce the high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition.

Immunization coverage varies by county and by antigen, with polio first dose (OPV1) and pentavalent first dose (Penta-1) achieving the highest coverage of 86%, followed by Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) and pentavalent third dose (Penta-3) at 78%. The antigen with the lowest coverage is polio zero dose (OPV0) at 66%, followed by yellow fever (71%) and polio and pentavalent second dose (OPV2 and Penta-2) at 72%. The proportion of children fully immunized is approximately 72% using the measles and yellow fever coverage as proxy (see table).[5]

Disease burden


Intervention coverage




State of surveillance

Endnotes:References, sources, methods, abbreviations, etc.

  1. Liberia demographic and health survey 2007 (2.5Mb). Monrovia, Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare National AIDS Control Program and Macro International, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 Liberia malaria indicator survey, 2009. Monrovia, Government of Liberia, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 2009
  3. The essential package of health services. Primary care: the community health system. Phase one (pdf 394.62kb). Monrovia, Government of Liberia, Ministry of health and Social welfare, 2011
  4. The state of food and nutrition insecurity in Liberia. Comprehensive food security and nutrition survey (pdf 2.93Mb). Monrovia, Government of Liberia, Ministry of Agriculture, and World Food Programme, 2010
  5. 5.0 5.1 Annual report. Monrovia, Government of Liberia, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, 2011