Photograph by Martin Lueders
Photographing Liberia...
 At a temporary home for single teenage mothers and their babies in Buchanan, former "rebel wives" and other girls who have to fend for themselves and their babies are feeding their infants. While in residence at the USAID-funded WAYS home, the mothers are taught basic child and health care practices. They also learn a trade to enable them to make a living after they leave the home. At the end of their four-month stay at the WAYS home,  the girls are placed in foster family homes and given a small start-up grant as part of a business group.
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Seven years of war have had a devastating impact on children and youth in Liberia. Fifty-five percent of Liberia's estimated population of 2.9 million are children under the age of 17. These children's lives have been dominated by violence, hunger, and homelessness. As a result of the war, children have been displaced, separated from their families, or orphaned. Many have become subject to forced recruitment, child labor, and child prostitution. Others have moved onto the streets. Without any educational opportunities, many have turned to drugs and crime. 

A significant number of children actively participated in the war. An estimated 5,000 - 15 percent - of the approximately 33,000 combatants were child soldiers. During the disarmament and demobilization exercise in 1996-97, a total of 4,306 child combatants were demobilized. Although the majority of these children went back to their communities, about 20 percent had to be temporarily in transit homes while family tracing and alternative placements were pursued. It has since surfaced that an even larger number of children who participated in the war were never formally demobilized. 

USAID's War Affected Youth Support (WAYS), implemented by UNICEF, strives to provide for the reintegration into civil society of Liberian children, including demobilized child soldiers and displaced youths. Such reintegration is a long-term process requiring programs for the psychosocial and physical rehabilitation of the children and the provision of educational and training opportunities. The program also involves a training component to assist reuniting targeted children with their families. Through USAID funding, 22 centers in Liberia have been established to facilitate the delivery of vocational and literacy training, counseling, and tracing services. To date, a total of 2,700 war-affected youths have completed the program, and 3,620 are enrolled in the program.

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