‘Liberia is Close to Our Heart’, Says Norwegian Foreign Minister

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The Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Norway, Borge Brende, has said that Liberia is close to the heart of Norway and they could not sit idly by and see the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) ravage the country.  Instead, he said, Norway is joining the fight to eradicate the disease.

When the disease is eradicated with all of the global attention and support that the crisis is now receiving, the Norwegian Government will resume its development aid to Liberia, Minister Brende said. 

Norway’s prime focus of assistance to Liberia is in the energy and forestry sectors.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister was speaking during a joint press conference on Tuesday at the Foreign Ministry in Monrovia.  Also participating in the press conference were President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Foreign Minister Brende announced that 160 doctors from his country have already signed up to be deployed to the three West African Ebola affected states.

He also announced that Norway will provide military transportation in the form of logistical support to Liberia, aimed at eradicating the epidemic.

This support is in addition to what the Norwegian Government has committed since the outbreak of the virus in the region. The government of the small European country had already committed over US$60 million to the response exercise in the Mano River Union (MRU). He also made disclosure of an additional US$15 million to be channeled through the World Health Organization (WHO) for affected countries.

Minister Brende, who was in the country to get a firsthand look and briefing on the outbreak and its effect on the country, renewed Norway’s commitment to assist Liberia with Ebola, as well as his country’s partnership beyond Ebola.

The Norwegian Foreign Minister, who is also Councilor of State and presides over the Ministry which is responsible for trade, foreign aid and cooperation with international organizations, stressed that his Government saw it as a responsibility to reach out to Liberia due to the long standing relationship between the two countries, especially with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, at the helm. 

The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually by the Kingdom of Norway.

It may be recalled that during a high-level Ebola Crisis Event held in connection with the World Bank annual meetings in Washington, D.C. last week, Foreign Minister, on behalf of his country, pledged well over US$10 million toward a new multi-donor fund for the fight against Ebola set up by the World Bank. 

“It is positive that the World Bank is setting up a fund to put the health sector in the affected countries in a better position to deal with the crisis,” he declared. 

For his part, the USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah informed journalists that the United States has put into place significant measures,  including finances, in order to contain the spread of the virus.

Mr. Shah disclosed that the U.S. Government had approved and begun spending US$400 million with over 600 staff of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the country working with USAID to support the Liberian Government, making it the largest CDC operation outside of the United States.

The USAID Administrator further announced that the U.S. Government, through USAID, would give US$5 million to support the Liberian Government in its compensation program for health care workers. Mr. Shah noted, however, that this amount is part of the US$142 million critical support, out of which US$65 million would be targeted toward training, community-based engagements and the construction of care centers across the country.

The USAID Administrator renewed the United States’ commitment to helping Liberia in its fight against the Ebola virus disease and hoped that everyone would work together to return Liberia to normalcy in order to resume its development programs.

Other members of the Norwegian delegation that met President Sirleaf included: Chief of Staff Vebjorn Dysvik and Harald Tollan of the West Africa Unit of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry; while the USAID Administrator was accompanied by USAID Country Director in Liberia, John Marc Winfield, DART Leader Bill Berger and U.S, Ambassador to Liberia Deborah Malac.

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