By Chris F Pewu
The Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Madam Williameta E. Saydee-Tarr, has indicated that Liberia has over 300,000 vulnerable households that she classified as “living in extreme poverty.”
This, Minister Tarr said, includes vulnerable groups such as orphans, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV, among others.
She said the government is committed to implementing the Social Protection Agenda, which is under its Human Development Pillar.
Minister Tarr, who spoke at a one-day HIV and Social Protection Planning Workshop in Monrovia, explained that Liberia cannot realize its transformation agenda without scaling up social protection strategies that can restore human dignity and foster social cohesion.
“Our partners are committed to supporting our pro-poor development agenda, demonstrated by initiatives that include the social protection registry, payment of social cash transfers and the school feeding program,” she said.
If implemented, Tarr believes the Social Protection Program will reduce poverty, having a significant impact on the beneficiaries.
“The need in Liberia is much greater than the availability of resources to take the program to scale,” she said.
The assessment that took place in 2017 to review the linkages between HIV and Social Protection indicates that few, if any, of the persons living with HIV, young people and other vulnerable groups, have heard of Liberia’s Social protection programs.
Minister Tarr said the barriers that prevent these groups from accessing HIV prevention and treatment services can be alleviated through social protection interventions.
One of the recommendations in the assessment report is that we need to increase access to social protection programs for vulnerable groups most affected by the AIDS epidemic in the country.
In addition to increasing access, Minister Tarr called for the need to scale up to the social protection intervention, such as cash transfer and livelihood programs, “because scaling up these interventions requires a significant investment in the national Social Protection Agenda.”
‘’It is my appeal that we bring stakeholders and partners together once more to review progress to see how we can expand these programs at a faster pace, to reach more of the vulnerable population as quickly as possible.
“l remain committed to ensuring the social protection programs reach those in our community that are most vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic,” she noted.
Minister Tarr said she looked forward to receiving the proposed roll-out plan for HIV and Social Protection and will do her utmost to mobilize resources for the implementation.
Meanwhile, UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Miriam Chipimo, said though Liberia is on the right trajectory to reduce the spread of HIV by 2020, the country still has few challenges to address.
Director Chipimo said “We will do all we can to empower communities to make decisions that will prevent new HIV infections.”
Liberia’s HIV and social protection assessment were conducted from 19-23 June 2017, as part of the country’s post-conflict Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak recovery efforts.