Mark Woods: Humbling visit to war-scarred city

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The west African state of Liberia is a tough place to find yourself living.

The unimaginably brutal civil war which raged there until 2003 together with the conflict in neighbouring Sierra Leone bore witness to some of the worst atrocities seen anywhere since the Second World War.

At the heart of the most heinous acts carried out were almost always children.

Recruited as soldiers, they were reportedly forced to carry out acts almost beyond comprehension on their own family members – there is an entire generation who lived through an unexpurgated nightmare.

I found myself in the country’s capital Monrovia last week, a city still trying to rebuild after devastation and one where former child soldiers are now parents themselves.

The issues facing today’s Liberian children may not be as violent as those which haunted their parents, but the utter disruption of war meant thousands missed out on vaccinations and remain at risk to the likes as measles and tetanus.

Then there’s one of the biggest killer of all, malaria. In one of the main hospitals I saw youngster after youngster fighting for their life for the simple reason that their family couldn’t afford a mosquito net to protect them as they slept.

Outside, there are slum areas which are home to the very poorest, with no sanitation, electricity or robust permanent shelter.It’s a bleak picture to be sure, but it isn’t without hope, far from it and again it’s the children of the country who lie at the heart of things.

As they play with sticks, tyres and whatever they can fashion from the rubbish around them they all speak about the importance of one thing – education.

There’s no dragging of heels for those lucky enough to have a school place here.

From an early age they recognise education as their primary route out of poverty and will do anything to learn and better themselves.

It’s a humbling and inspirational drive to witness in ones so young and even if for now their surroundings and situation may be dark, if they are given half the chance the future for the children of a Liberia could well be bright.

Twitter @mark_r_woods