Malaria Control ‘Hero’ Buried on World Malaria Day

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The Salem Baptist Church in Parker Corner, Brewerville City was a scene of wailing, praise and joy when mourners, sympathizers and well-wishers gathered to pay homage to the life of one of Liberia’s “heroes.”

Dr. (MD) Joel Jaryenneh Jones, affectionately known to some of his colleagues as ‘Dr. JJ’, ‘Dr. J3’ and ‘Dr. Joel Jones’, was Saturday, April 25, on World Malaria Day, laid to rest in his native Brewerville City.

He was born Thursday, Novermber 17, 1966 and died Thursday, March 19, 2015 at the age of 49.

Until his death, Dr. Jones, who joined the Liberia’s National Malaria Control Program (NMCP) in 2002, headed that program at the Ministry of Health for 13 years. According to some, the program had already gone down the drain and it took Dr. Jones to revive it.

At the Salem Baptist Church, where the late NMCP’s boss’ home-going service was held, various tribute payers spoke of the deceased's good deeds with his fellowmen and women and how, through his work ethic, he was able to bring to the world’s attention the effect of malaria on the Liberian population.

Specifically, Deputy Health Minister Yah Zolia, who said she had always regarded him as her boss for life, because he was boss at the NMCP, where she began her public service, stated that he was the first to draw the world’s attention to the Liberia through the Global Fund for Malaria.

“When we heard that people were applying for money from the Global Fund, we didn’t know how to begin the process, but Dr. Jones encouraged all of us to just try. We tried and luckily for us, we got the first grant from Global Fund,” Mrs. Zolia stated.

According to her the first grant was US$12 million and the issue of tackling malaria began to take center stage in the nation’s health care delivery.

Further paying tribute on behalf of the Health Ministry, the Deputy Minister said Dr. Jones’ leadership was one of trust between him and his subordinates. “He made us build self-confidence by allowing us to do our assignments independently. This helped us to grow. He never was so big a boss to say I am sorry; he was very friendly.”

In addition to Mrs. Zolia, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, said for nine years, he worked with Dr. Jones as his principal deputy at the NMCP. Mr. Nyenswah presently heads the nation’s Ebola response program.

Also paying tribute, the Cuttington University (CU), represented by some of his (Dr. JJ’s) classmates, began with the ode of their alma mater. They sang it gleefully. Their song reverberated the air of the Salem Baptist’s tight edifice, which was filled to the brim. The courtyard of the church was also filled and others who didn’t find space in the church and its yard, made room for themselves in the two entertainment centers opposite the church.

Like all others, the former CU students, said he fought hard to put an end to malaria deaths in Liberia, adding: “He’s regarded as Liberia’s malaria hero.”

Among those paying tribute was the University of Liberia, where the deceased had worked as a Microbiology “lecturer” at its A.M. Doglotti College of Medicine for several years until his death. The UL said, “His life, though relatively brief, was very rewarding to many.”

In her eulogy, his wife of 12 years, said her husband was an incredible man, who no other man can replace in her life. “We grew up here together in Brewerville for 27 years. Mrs. Helen P. Jones said, “He was a good, loving and kind-hearted husband. I was his first patient; he loved our children and his career as a Medical Doctor.” Dr. Jones was a father of six biological children and two adopted.

In his words of encouragement, Rev. Christian S. Chea, who preached celebration sermon, said Dr. Jones’ relationship with his wife was good and admirable. Rev. Chea buttressed the earlier statements made by tribute payers: “He brought to the limelight of the world, the worsening condition of malaria in Liberia.”

As tributes were pouring in for Dr. Jones at the Salem Baptist, participants attending the World Malaria Day program, which was being held at the Monrovia City Hall concomitantly, also poured acknowledgements on him for his fight in bringing to the world’s attention Liberia’s malaria situation.

Specifically, Liberia’s Health Minister-designate, Dr. Bernice Dahn, said Dr. Jones had to fight with his fellow doctors in order for them to transition from prescribing chloroquine, an antimalarial drug to administering Antimalaria Combination Therapy (ACT) as the new malaria treatment. 

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