Liberia: Former Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale, Has Died

Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale.   

Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, the former Minister of Health who helped reform Liberia's health system during the aftermath of the country's 14-year civil war, has died. 

He was 87 years old.  

Dr. Gwenigale was admitted at the John F. Kennedy hospital last week Friday, where he underwent a successful surgery following a fall.

He developed Subdural Hematoma, a condition of blood in the brain. While the surgery was remarkably successful, he developed other medical complications, from which he did not recover. 

Dr. Gwenigale  was a central figure in former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, helping to rebuild and strengthen a health system devastated by war.

He championed the expansion of the health system across the country and pushed for more donor support as well as its independence. And he led the Sirleaf administration's fight against the Ebola disease. However, his no-nonsense work ethic made him a controversial figure with the health workers association. 

Dr. Gwenigale served as the Minister of Health during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration from 2006 to 2015.

He had an enviable medical career, having served as a practicing surgeon for more than 30 years, including during the civil war. He was Bong County health officer, director of Phebe Hospital, and president of the Christian Health Association of Liberia. He also served on the World Health Organization’s executive board and as a board member of the Roll Back Malaria campaign.

Upon his retirement from public service in 2015, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf described him as “a symbolic icon with a commitment and duty to public service that we all must endeavor to emulate in upholding the public trust that has been bestowed upon us as a government”.

She further described him as “a masterful manifestation of humbled and exemplary life that comes on par with nothing short of unassuming excellence.”

She said “Dr. Gwenigale will be remembered as one of my best-serving Cabinet Ministers that I could count on for sound judgment and profoundly good advice”. 

Dr. Gwenigale is survived by his widow of nearly 52 years, Carmen, of Puerto Rico, USA, two sons, Walter Jr, Cllr. Raymond (Stacey) and Carmen (Mike) Ogoli; five grandchildren and Michael Gwenigale, Jr, his brother's son, who he reared.