The insensitivity of the Executive branch of the Liberian government to the plight of the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) in terms of financial support to the entity has not gone down well with many Liberians. A member of the legislature has described the situation as unfortunate and a display of ingratitude.
Although fresh from executing one of the most critical and deadly tasks of the Ebola response, the LNRCS has received a minute budget that cannot even run its operational cost for two months.
The Red Cross, which spends over half a million US dollars or more depending on the annual activities, had an annual budget of US$250,000 submitted to the government for the 2015-2016 fiscal year, but that amount was reduced by 50% by crafters of the 2015-2016 National budget. The LNRCS is the country’s largest humanitarian organization and the most immediate responder to disaster.
The action by the Finance Ministry and other government functionaries to half the Red Cross’s budget has angered Bong County Lawmaker and former Deputy Speaker at the National Legislature George Mulbah, who described the act as inhumane and a show of ingratitude on the part of the executive branch of the Liberian government
“It is ungratefulness on the part of the crafters of this fiscal national budget to reduce the Red Cross’ annual budget from US$250,000 to US$125,000. This proves that we don’t understand the tremendous role of the Red Cross in our Country.”
The Lawmaker made the comments when he served as keynote speaker at the opening of the LNRCS’s partnership conference in Monrovia on Wednesday. The conference brought together international partners from the USA, Germany, Canada, France Sweden, Switzerland and Representatives from several West African countries.
Rep Mulbah said, “When Ebola was at its peak, the Red Cross was one organization that stood up to dare the virus and we all are aware of these happenings. Red Cross stood up for the Liberian people. They need more money to affectively carry out their mandate, but this seems not to be the case.”
He indicated that the LNRCS deserves more than US$125,000 especially after doing such a tremendous work for us by helping to defeat the Ebola virus. “LNRCS was doing one of the most difficult tasks in the response exercise.”
The LNRCS has over the years been reliant on donor funding to carry out its many operations as well as administrative issues, as support provided by government has always remained inadequate. In this regard, the Lawmaker challenged government to start undertaking its obligations with the entity fully. He said it is now time that government takes its responsibility to support the Red Cross seriously.
“Our government should not rely on donor support to run a national institution that was established by an act of legislation. It is our entity and we have to support it.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Mulbah has also recommended an amendment to the act that established the entity. He said this is in order to compel the government to take full responsibility for the entity’s financial burden.
Another act of ingratitude to the Red Cross by the government is government’s refusal to recognize the efforts of the LNRCS in the Ebola fight. Under the Incidence Management System (IMS), LNRCS was tasked with the management and burial of Ebola dead bodies, the most dangerous aspect of the response, which the Red Cross diligently performed though many international medical entities such as MSF, WHO dare not do because of the risk.
According to an insider at the LNRCS, the hierarchy is feeling very uneasy about the lack of recognition of the entity by high ranking government officials since the outbreak was brought under control.
“The government has been very ungrateful to us because all of the work we did during the crisis are not even recognized at major national events. We were not even recognized at the ceremony when the country was declared Ebola free. When we were decommissioning our dead body management team, there was not a single government official there. This is disheartening but we are serving the Liberian people and not individuals.” The LNRCS official said.
Officially opening the conference, LNRCS President Emmanuel Kparh, said the partnership conference comes at a time when the country is recovering from the EVD and his entity has prepared short, medium and long term recovery plans, especially to cater to the needs of victims of the crisis.
He said in the last 17 months, the leadership of the LNRCS has transformed the entity, improving its reputation among its many donors and partners.
He said the Red Cross has been able to address donor concerns in regards to financial accountability and reorganization of the entity’s human resource department.
Meanwhile, at the conference, partners were surprised to note that the government of Liberia could reduce the subsidy of Red Cross in the national budget at a time when donors were seeking funding to prepare the Red Cross in the event of a return of Ebola.