Liberia has one of Africa's highest fertility rates; in 2000 it averaged six children for every woman surviving through her childbearing years. Average life expectancy was 47 years in 2000. As of 1999, there were an estimated 0.1 physicians and 1.6 hospital beds per 1,000 people. From 1985–95, only about 39% of the population had access to health care services. Few Liberians had access to safe water (40%) and sanitation (24%) in 1994. More recent figures are unavailable. Programs such as the Combating Childhood Communicable Diseases Program are credited with reducing mortality rates for children five and under. The infant mortality rate was 111 per 1,000 live births in 2000. The maternal mortality rate was 560 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1990. Contraceptive use is low. The level of measles immunization has dropped by 11% in the last few years from 55% in 1988 to 44% in 1994 (the most recent year for which figures are available). From 1990 to 1994, children up to one year were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 84%; diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus, 43%; and polio, 45%.
The general mortality rate in 2002 was an estimated 16 per 1,000 people. The Liberian staple diet of rice or cassava (manioc) is deficient in protein and children in particular suffer because of this. The major causes of death are malaria and gastrointestinal disease, attributable in part to poor sanitation. Between 1990 and 1992, there were approximately 20,000 war-related deaths. As of 2001, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS was estimated at 125,000 and deaths from AIDS that year were estimated at 13,000. HIV prevalence in 1999 was 2.8 per 100 adults.
Nearly 900,000 women, or 60% of the female population, suffer female genital mutation. Although the Liberian government has published policy opposing female genital mutation, no law currently prohibits its use.