As of the 2008 national census, Liberia was home to 3,476,608 people. Of those, 1,118,241 lived in Montserrado County, the most populous county in the country and home to the capitol of Monrovia, with the Greater Monrovia district home to 970,824 people. Nimba County is the next most populous county with 462,026 residents.
Prior to the 2008 census, the last census had been held in 1984, and it listed the population as 2,101,628. The population of Liberia was 1,016,443 in 1962 and increased to 1,503,368 in 1974.
The MOH&SW believes that substantive preparatory work is still needed in order to formulate a sound social welfare policy. The new social welfare policy aim's at restructuring a sector that is now fragmented and under-resourced, and is thus unable to address the enormous needs of the Liberian population. Therefore, a major review of the social welfare field iwas carried out in 2007.
The review started with a thorough situation analysis where issues such as poverty, violence, displacement, unemployment, gender inequality, disability, and vulnerability were explored in
The review considered the following critical aspects of social welfare:
- Resource and capacity constraints in the social welfare field.
- Social welfare areas of priority based on international evidence-based best practices and lessons learned. Priorities are taken into consideration existing needs, available resources and the
comparative effectiveness of different interventions.
- Resources needed to carry out the chosen interventions and provide equitable, sustainable and effective social welfare services.
- Institutional implications of the proposed measures, including linkages with other sectors and stakeholders. The policy focuses on ways to encourage the integration of the actions
promoted in the field, and remove operational obstacles.
- Monitoring and evaluation tools.
The University of Liberia is the country's largest college and is located in Monrovia. Opened in 1862, it is one of Africa's oldest institutes of higher learning organized upon the western model. Civil war severely damaged the university in the 1990s, but the university has begun to rebuild following the restoration of peace. The school includes six colleges, including a medical school and the nation's only law school, Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law.
Cuttington University was established by the Episcopal Church of the USA (ECUSA) in 1889; its campus is currently located in Suakoko, Bong County (120 miles north of Monrovia). The private school, the oldest private college in Liberia, also holds graduate courses in Monrovia.
According to statistics published by UNESCO for 2004 65% of primary-school age and 24% of secondary-school age children were enrolled in school. This is a significant increase on previous years; the statistics also show substantial numbers of older children going back to earlier school years. On average, children attain 10 years of education, 11 for boys and 8 for girls. Children ages five to eleven are required by law to attend school, though enforcement is lax. A 1912 law required children ages 6 to 16 to attend school.
It is estimated that as much as 40 percent of the population of Liberia practices either Christianity or Christianity combined with elements of traditional indigenous religious beliefs. Approximately 40 percent exclusively practices traditional indigenous religious beliefs. An estimated 20 percent of the population practices Islam. A small percentage is Bahá'í, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or atheist.
Christian denominations include the Lutheran, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, Roman Catholic, United Methodist, African Methodist Episcopal (AME) and AME Zion denominations, and a variety of Pentecostal churches. Some of the Pentecostal movements are affiliated with churches outside the country, while others are independent. There are also members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and Seventh-day Adventists. Christians live throughout the country.
The Muslim population is mainly found among the Mandingo and Vai ethnic groups. Vai live predominantly in the west, but Mandingo reside throughout the country. Ethnic groups in all regions participate in the traditional religious practices of the Poro and Sande secret societies.
The Bahá'í Faith in Liberia begins with the entrance of the first member of the religion in 1952. By the end of 1963 there were five assemblies and Liberian Bahá'ís elected their first National Spiritual Assembly in 1975. The community was somewhat disrupted by the First Liberian Civil War but re-established their National Spiritual Assembly in 1998. Almost 9,500 Bahá'ís are believed to have been in Liberia in 2006.