Where Is the Roadmap to Liberia’s Post-Ebola Recovery?

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Has anyone ever heard the term “donor fatigue?”  It is real, especially in the developing world, which usually depends so much on external or donor support for sustenance in many aspects of national life. 

Donor fatigue comes about for mainly three reasons: first, when a country consistently misuses the donor support; second, when a country refuses to identify and be focused on its most urgent priorities; and third, when there occurs another major crisis in another part of the world that demands the donors’ immediate attention.  In this case, the donors quickly pack their bags and run to respond to the new crisis.

We begin this Editorial in this way out of fear! Why fear?  Because we are worried that the Liberian government is wasting time in coming up with a Roadmap that sets the stage for our post-Ebola recovery.

Why?  Because we had hoped that President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would have made this roadmap the centerpiece of her Annual Message to the Legislature last Monday.  With the Ebola virus disease (EVD) having ravaged the country, drastically reducing our over 8% economic growth rate to 0.4%, affecting negatively ALL productive sectors of our economy—agriculture, mining, tourism—and even education, which is already in shambles—did the President have anything more important to say to the Legislature, nation and world than dealing with this most urgent priority of our time—rebuilding our healthcare delivery system?  We think not.

We rather believe this roadmap to the revitalization of our Healthcare Delivery System is most critical for three reasons: first, because by the President’s own admission, it was the weakness of the healthcare system that caused Ebola to spread so rapidly, so quickly throughout Liberia.  Second, because just this Tuesday a senior World Bank official warned that any other pandemic could quickly spread again in many parts of Africa because of the weak healthcare delivery system prevalent all over the continent. 

Our third and probably most important reason we believe the roadmap is critical is one that only a fool will argue against: the international community has, in the face of Liberia’s Ebola crisis, reached out, if even belatedly, and helped to defeat the viral spread.  Today, thanks to their largesse, there are throughout the country no new cases, and only five confirmed.

But that is not all!  Here is our main point: Our friends, the People’s Republic of China, in addition to the tens of millions of dollars they have pumped into our anti-Ebola crusade, have offered, through their Ambassador, H.E. Zhang Yue, to help rebuild our healthcare delivery system!

Minutes later the Americans, too, came forward and made the identical pledge.  “We will help you rebuild and improve your healthcare delivery system,” they told President Sirleaf.

What have these pledges to do with donor fatigue?  Everything!  With people at our doorsteps willing to help us plant clinics, health centers and hospitals throughout our country, you surely do not expect them to develop our roadmap.  We have got to do it ourselves, and do so with urgency, before another outbreak occurs in another part of the world and the donors flee Liberia!

That, Madam President, is the reason for our disappointment with your Annual Message. 

And mark you, the Chinese, Americans, and everyone else know that planting clinics and hospitals around the country is not enough—they have to be equipped and staffed.  But staffed by whom, since so many of our doctors, nurses and paramedics have fled the country since the 1980 coup and the war?  A critical part of that roadmap we are talking about includes training, training of nurses, paramedics and doctors, with specialization in every possible area, including heart, kidney, lung, liver and prostate surgery; dialysis, orthopedic and foot surgery, pathology, radiology and all the other specializations.  

The Chinese, Americans, European Union, the Indians and all the other partners know the importance of training.  But they need a roadmap of our priorities.

Please, Madam President, get together with your Health Team and the University of Liberia’s Medical College and the West African Graduate Medical College, plan the roadmap and submit it to our partners, telling them what part we can  play and what we expect of them. 

When this is done, we think Liberia will be on her way to developing a credible healthcare delivery system that will keep Ebola and any other pandemic at bay.

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