When we lived in Monrovia, JP and I went to visit the ruins of the once-famous Ducor Hotel. We stood at the top of what used to be the most beautiful building in Liberia, and looked down on the slum of West Point. West Point is Liberia’s largest slum, or informal settlement in the academic world, and is known across Africa as well. JP visited West Point recently as part of his thesis research.
Apparently, approximately 75% of Monrovia’s population (and potentially Liberia’s) lives in informal settlements like West Point. But it wasn’t always like this.
My former supervisor in Monrovia used to live in Liberia in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Her husband was a European businessman who operated a business in Liberia. She and her children lived in Monrovia, right next to West Point. When I showed her these photos, she told how sad it made her to see it look like this, because it didn’t always look this way.
West Point is a product of the over 20 years of civil war that took over Liberia. It is also an example of the human ability to overcome – the people there live in the worst conditions imaginable, yet the children are playing in the streets, the adults are smiling as they smoke fish, and chatting with fellow fishermen as they mend nets. Somehow they keep going despite it all…