US, Norwegian Diplomats Arrive to Assess Ebola Situation

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The Government of Liberia says it is expecting two distinguished guests today in the persons of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah and Foreign Minister of Norway, Børge Brende to assess the Ebola situation in Liberia and other infected countries in the sub-region.

According to a US State Department release, Mr. Shah is currently on a 5-day visit to West Africa, specifically Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Senegal from October 13-17, to meet with national and local officials, aid organizations, and staff coordinating the international response to the Ebola outbreak in the sub-region. USAID is helping to coordinate an aggressive U.S. Government response to the Ebola outbreak that leverages broad expertise and personnel from several federal departments and agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and State, as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Administrator Rajiv Shah began leadership of USAID a few days before the earthquake in Haiti in January 2010. He is generally credited for leading a very successful effort in assisting Haiti recover through a very swift and effective response. It is expected that Administrator Shah will bring the same vision and strategic response to the fight against Ebola. Rajiv Shah previously served as Under Secretary of Research, Education and Economics (REE) and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Norway’s Foreign Minister Brende, for his part, will get a firsthand look and briefing on the outbreak and its effect on the country. He is expected to renew Norway’s commitment to assisting Liberia with Ebola, as well as his country’s partnership beyond Ebola. Minister Brende, who is also Councilor of State, presides over the Ministry which is responsible for trade, foreign aid and cooperation with international organizations, among other things. He belongs to the Conservative Party and previously served in the Norwegian government as Minister of the Environment and as Minister of Trade and Industry.

During a high-level Ebola Crisis Event held in connection with the World Bank annual meetings in Washington, D.C. last week, Minister, Børge Brende on Thursday, October 9, 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.  Norway will contribute NOK 70 million (well over US$10 million) to the fund,” said Minister Børge Brende at the event. Earlier that week, the Norwegian Government doubled its funding for the fight against Ebola, bringing Norway’s contribution up to a total of NOK 184 million. With the addition of this pledge to the new fund, Norway’s support will amount to NOK 254 million (nearly US$40 million).

According to Liberia’s Information Minister Lewis Brown, the Government of Liberia intends to engage both officials regarding support to communities in terms of community care centers, increase public awareness, and to seek continued support for rebuilding of the nation’s public health system.

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