U.S Amb. McCarthy Embarks on Counties Tour, Ascertain Status of USAID Projects
Liberia- United States Ambassador to Liberia, Michael A. McCarthy, along with USAID Country Director Jim Wright has embarked on a visiting tour in counties of Liberia to ascertain the condition and status of the USAID project across the country.
The U.S. Diplomat disclosed his visit recently in a press conference held at the Embassy in Monrovia,
The visit was also meant to see a country firsthand, getting out of the capital to understand what the reality is like on the ground.
The first phase focus on Bomi and Gbarpolu counties from April 3-4, 2023.
During his trip, Amb. McCarthy held meetings with local traditional and political leaders and health workers “striving diligently” to improve the lives of those around them, as well as observing the vitally important voter registration process in both counties.
In both Tubmanburg and Bopolu, Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright directly observed the voter registration process at two registration sites. Both sites proved that overall, the biometric voter registration process is effective, despite some initial challenges with the new technology, and that registration is being completed efficiently, fairly, and peacefully. The Ambassador emphasized the importance of local poll workers having signed contracts and being paid during meetings with the NEC magistrate in both counties. Both magistrates confirmed that the contracts would be signed before the end of the week and that the NEC Headquarters was on track to provide funding for the payments, which would be made after the registration process was complete and the poll workers had satisfactorily completed their assignments.
His visit to the registration centers in the county comes days following a call on the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Finance to fully fund the commission for free, fair, and transparent elections. NEC has over time alarmed that the government has not been able to fully fund them in the conduct of the 2023 elections. The situation recently even lead some of the commission temporary workers to abandon work in some parts of Montserrado county including districts #4, and #12 among others, on grounds that they are yet to sign a contract sheet for the work they do from NEC.
However, in an interview with Radio Bomi, one of 30 radio stations in Liberia that are part of a USAID-funded media project, Ambassador McCarthy called on Liberian citizens to register to vote so that they can help shape the future of their country and participate in the democratic process during the upcoming elections.
In Tubmanburg, Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright met with Bomi County Superintendent, traditional leaders, and other county and city officials. They toured the Bomi County Service Center, met with staff, and learned how delays in implementing the excellent decentralization law have negatively affected the services that citizens can receive in Bomi.
Visiting the Forestry Training Institute (FTI), the Ambassador and USAID Director directly saw the benefits of USAID and U.S. Forest Service support during a conversation held with current FTI students held in a conference hall constructed with USAID funding. Liberia has incredible forestry resources, but illegal logging and unregulated use of the forest are rapidly degrading the forests of Liberia. Students trained at FTI will have a significant role to play in securing this important resource.
The Ambassador and Director Wright were introduced to the Riders for Health specimen transport team, by Dr. Rachel Idowu, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Country Director in Liberia. Riders have exclusive responsibility for collecting communicable disease specimens from health facilities in all 15 counties, then quickly and safely transporting health specimens to Margibi County for testing. These riders, under extreme conditions, are at the front lines of rapidly detecting and controlling future outbreaks and are an incredible resource for Liberia and the international community.
In Tubmanburg, the Ambassador and Director Wright visited the USAID- and WHO-funded oxygen plant that has been a game changer for Bomi County and neighboring health clinics. This plant produces life-saving oxygen that can be provided throughout the county, and across counties in the future, to help reduce costs and save time.
It is so important to never forget the atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil wars. In an act of remembrance and respect, the Ambassador visited the Maher Bridge War Memorial outside of Tubmanburg to hear firsthand from the community and a survivor about the incident that inspired the memorial.
In Bopolu, the Ambassador and Director Wright were again warmly welcomed by the County Superintendent, local officials, and traditional leaders. Touring the Gbarpolu County Service Center, again the Ambassador had the opportunity to see how beneficial decentralization will be, and how important it is for counties to receive their full budget. Officials informed the Ambassador that neither the city nor the county had received the funding promised to them in the budget passed by the Liberian legislature.
USAID directly funds Mary’s Meals, a school feeding program that supports thousands of students every day, including in Bopolu City, with healthy and nutritious lunches. This type of support helps keep kids in school, keeps kids healthy, and improves educational outcomes. Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright met with school officials, county and district education officers, as well as students who benefit from this impactful program.
Ambassador McCarthy and Director Wright visited Chief Jallah Lone Hospital to meet with the County Health Officer and other health officials and learn about local challenges to providing care in rural counties such as Gbarpolu. Incredibly, Chief Jallah Lone Hospital has not received its last quarter of allotment of medicine, negatively affecting treatment and access for citizens in the county. In addition, the Ambassador learned that the hospital has not received its full funding as guaranteed in the budget. The Ambassador promised to take back these observations to Monrovia and encouraged local journalists to ask questions and discover what is happening to the budgeted funds. After all, it is impossible to expect institutions to function when they are resource-starved. Finally, the Ambassador and Director Wright made a brief visit to the new Emirates Hospital Liberia, an impressive building, but one which will require adequate funding and maintenance to ensure sustainability in the future