What Ellen Should Tell Obama

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is due to meet United States President Barrack Obama on Friday.  She had been scheduled to attend Obama’s Africa Summit several months ago, but the devastating spread of Ebola in Liberia at the time prevented her.  Vice President Joseph N. Boakai represented her at that meeting.

Now that she is scheduled to meet the U.S. leader this Friday, the first thing she should tell him is a BIG Thank You for the great help he gave in boldly deploying over 3000 troops to Liberia to build Ebola Treatment Units throughout the country and undertake other initiatives to help us fight Ebola.  The American troops, along with the efforts of the Chinese, the European Union, Germans, Norwegians, Nigerians and many other partners, made a great impact and soon the virus was effectively contained.

The President will then brief her US counterpart on how she gallantly led Liberians in the combat against this most terrible health crisis in our history.  We are positive that President Obama will highly commend her on this heroic feat and pledge further assistance in dealing a final blow to the pandemic.

There are two other most important items on the President’s agenda at the White House.  The first is post-Ebola recovery.  She should have no difficulty raising this highly critical issue, because the Americans have already pledged to help us rebuild our healthcare delivery system.  This newspaper has been urging the President and her government to develop a roadmap that will present a comprehensive plan about the nation’s most important health and medical needs.  The first among these is to rehabilitate all of the existing medical institutions around the country, beginning with the John F. Kennedy Medical Center.  There are hospitals in Robertsport, Grand Cape Mount County, Tubmanburg, Bomi County, Kakata, Margibi  County, Suacoco and Gbarnga, Bong County, Ganta, Sanniquellie and Tappita, Nimba County, Zwedru, Grand Gedeh County, Harper, Maryland County, Greenville, Sinoe County, Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Zorzor, Voinjama, Kolahun and Foya, Lofa County.  All of these hospitals need to be rehabilitated and reequipped. 

But there are other counties where no hospitals exist.  These include River Gee, Grand Kru and River Cess.  They, too, need hospitals.

In addition to hospitals, there is an urgent need for health centers within all our counties, since many people in the nation’s interior heartland have to walk for miles to the capital seeking medical attention.  These journeys could be drastically shortened with the establishing of health centers spread over each county.  Such an initiative would drastically cut pre and postnatal casualties and raise Liberia’s health index.

Then there is the whole business of training, beginning with the University of Liberia’s Faculty of Health Sciences that includes the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA), the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and the West African Post-Graduate College that aims at training medical specialists of all kinds.          

We were surprised to learn that no one from the Ministry of Health accompanied the President to Washington.

We did discover later that Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswah had traveled to Brussels for Ellen’s March 3 meeting with the European Union. 

But surely before the President reaches Brussels, she must get the firm commitment of President Obama, the American government and people to help us rebuild our healthcare delivery system.

There is, finally, the burning issue of Liberia’s post-Ebola economic recovery.  The pandemic hit the Liberian economy very hard, reducing our growth rate from nearly six percent to 0.4 percent.  America is the world’s biggest economy and richest country.  Liberia is also America’s oldest and most reliable African friend.

Here is an excellent opportunity to give Liberia a Marshall Plan-like initiative that will set this beleaguered nation on the path to real development and prosperity.  America will benefit from it, for it will assure other African nations that the USA is a partner on which they can truly depend.  If they can do it for Liberia, Africans will say, “they can do it for us.”

It will once again confirm the ancient dictum (truism): “Charity begins at home.”  There is no place in the entire African continent where Americans feel more at home than in Liberia.

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