Almost eight years since ArcelorMittal and the Government of Liberia signed a Mineral Development Agreement for concession in the Upper Nimba Mineral belts most of the key facilities within the area still remain in ruin.
After the Daily Observer toured some of the facilities in Yekepa on February 15th, he noticed that the local hospital was understaffed and its renovation was in an indeterminate state.
Mr. Weamie D. Mhenduah, an administrator at the Yekepa Hospital said ArcelorMittal had only helped to hire two physicians and one of them is presently assigned in Buchanan. On top of that, the entire hospital had only 6 nurses to cater to all of its patients.
Mr. Mhenduah explained the hospital is running two shifts with two nurses on each shift, but during the tour this reporter only noticed one nurse on shift in charge of 10 admitted patients.
A third of the hospital seemed deserted; brought to a standstill by incomplete renovation work.
Commenting on the renovation of the hospital, Mr. Mhenduah said the work began in October last year; but stopped in December after the Ministry of Health instructed that the old asbestos covering the building be changed.
He said that ArcelorMittal had been running the hospital upon the signing of the MDA on May 2007.
The hospital was also rumored to suffer from a shortage of medicine. When the Daily Observer visited the hospital’s pharmacy Mr. Mhenduah denied any shortage of drugs. He clarified that the hospital has enough medicine to carry it for three months.
Tenneh Saah, a patient suffering from diarrhea, told this reporter that when she left the hospital the ORS and other medicines she was prescribed were purchased from the hospital pharmacy.
Some of the bathrooms we visited were in poor condition with no sign of it renovation in sight.
Meanwhile, Nimba Senator, Thomas S. Grupee, expressed his disappointment in ArcelorMittal for their failure to keep the promises made six months ago.
“We were here in September 2013 and the condition we saw the hospital in back then remains the same, this is totally disappointing,” he said.
The group known as Concerned Nimbaians for the Renegotiation and Resigning of the MDA has been putting pressure on ArcelorMittal to fully implement the agreement.
Last September the group requested that ArcellorMittal refurbish key facilities in Yekepa for the benefit of all living there.
Some of the facilities include the Yekepa Hospital, the concession high school and other schools in Yekepa.
Based on the request, the group alongside members of the House of Representative toured these facilities and ArcelorMittal promised to rehabilitate them by December 2013. Presently, most of these facilities are yet to be completed.
On the Thursday 13th February, the group took to the streets of Ganta in a peaceful protest demanding ArcelorMittal to fulfill their promises or they will obstruct all the company’s operations.
Based on this protest that the group was invited to Yekepa by ArcelorMittal on Saturday 15th February 2014, to have a meeting with the CEO and to ascertain the level of work done since September 2013.
The group was later taken on a tour of these facilities and discovered that some of the renovations on local high schools were shoddily done, the hospital was not touched and the vocational school remains incomplete.
Yekepa Hospital is one of the biggest hospitals in Liberia. It was built by LAMCO in the 60s and used to be one of the best in the country; comparable to other hospitals in the world at the time.
The present condition of the hospital is poor with most of its departments closed and little works done on the others, something that many citizens find unacceptable.
“This hospital used to be the best during the days of LAMCO. We are so disappointed to see the condition it is in today when a lot of resources are taken from it daily,” said Peter Kolor, a resident of Yekepa.