Though it was a statement to honor the memory of Liberia’s first President, Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Mr. Michael A. McCarthy, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, used it to speak on a lot of burning issues in the country.
Just as many political pundits believe that the statement from the U.S. Envoy is the final warning shot for President Weah’s administration to put in place a proper anti-corruption mechanism or face dire consequences that could jeopardize his administration’s re-election bid, we believe that our President must pay close attention, particularly to the health sector, where, despite many contributions from the US and other partners to support the government’s efforts, women and children continue to die needlessly.
It is disappointing to note that America annually contributes over $79 million to the sector, but clinics and hospitals, particularly in remote areas, lack crucial pharmaceuticals due to corruption.
It is also a national shame to hear that America provides approximately $9 million specifically for purchasing medications and commodities for the people of Liberia and to enhance the Ministry of Health’s effective distribution and warehousing of pharmaceuticals, but places like Kolahun in Lofa County and Sanniquellie in Nimba County, clinics and hospitals go without even the most basic drugs.
In this light, we call on President Weah to constitute an independent committee to probe the U.S. Embassy’s allegation that public officials steal medications from hospitals.
Ambassador McCarthy was very clear when he stated that “Troublingly, Embassy investigations indicate that not only are some citizens diverting public medical resources and low-cost drugs for personal gain, but that babies, young children, and birthing mothers are dying needlessly as a result”.
If echoing these statements is not weighty enough to move the President to action, what else will? We will recall that Madam Dana Banks, the Special Assistant to the President of the United States said: Corruption erodes the democracy you worked so hard to establish. However, only the Liberian government and the Liberian people have the power to combat corruption, fight for accountability and openness, and bring the country forward, and Ambassador McCarthy has added that the United States is concerned enough about corruption in Liberia to sanction individuals.
Frankly, it is embarrassing not only to this administration but previous ones for America to recount its many contributions to Liberia without a commensurate impact on the livelihoods of the people. The US Ambassador said that sixty years after the arrival of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Liberia, 19 years after the end of the civil war crisis, and seven years after the eradication of Ebola, US taxpayers contribute over $110 million per year in foreign assistance to the country.
In fact, it is really troubling that even in the Capitol City of Liberia, women are still dying in child birth, while 84.6 children out of 1000 live births die. Amidst the huge support for the health sector, diarrhea and malaria are common killers of women and children.
For these and many other reasons, we too join Ambassador McCarthy in asking: “How would Liberia’s first statesman (Joseph Jenkins Roberts) feel to know that his country’s top ally was compelled to sanction members of Liberia’s government just to preserve the rule of law and the democracy he helped establish?”
On this note, we say, President Weah needs to pay attention. A hint to the wise is quite sufficient.