Reflections on a Journey to Liberia
By Steve Stirling, President & CEO of MAP International
MONROVIA, Liberia — I’ve been to a number of countries in Africa over the past 15 years, but this was my first visit to Liberia. Liberians are resilient and gracious people. They have prevailed against more than 12 years of civil war which tore apart the country, including the health systems. In 2005, Liberians elected their first woman president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has dedicated herself to rebuilding the country.
On this trip I traveled with one of MAP’s board members, Cynthia Lynn Blandford, The Honorary Counsel General of Liberia and Charles Redding, president of Atlanta-based MedShare, a partner organization.
The rebuilding process of President Sirleaf was underway when the horrific Ebola virus hit the nation of 3.3 million people in 2014. The health system was in ruins after the civil war and the nation was rebuilding the infrastructure. MAP International’s Liberia staff of seven people was ready to respond in March of 2014. MAP provided more than 30,000 personal protective equipment suits (PPEs) by April, 2014 to health workers in Monrovia. The protective equipment was quickly followed by containers of medicines (antibiotics, oral rehydration solutions, analgesics) and medical supplies to help save lives.
Everywhere we traveled on this trip there were signs and reminders that Liberia is now Ebola free. About four hours from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, is Ganta, home to the Ganta Rehabilitation Center. MAP provides the rehab center with training, medicines and medical supplies to treat people afflicted with leprosy, buruli ulcer (BU) and tuberculosis. On the day we visited the center, there were 30 patients (many in wheelchairs or on crutches) waiting to be treated by the dedicated healthcare workers, doctors and nurses. The rehab center houses about 150 patients who are recovering from the devastating diseases. Against all odds the healthcare workers are providing excellent care to these patients in a loving and gracious way. The patients who might have been depressed from their ailments were singing songs of thanksgiving with joy to our Lord while waiting to be treated.
Our next stop was at the Phebe Hospital in Bong County. Dr. G. Gorbee Logan met us with his staff and shared the good work being done. MAP provides training and medicines, while our partner, MedShare, provides the medical equipment.
We asked the doctors at the medical centers we visited what can we do to help and they told us they need training, more healthcare professionals, medicines, supplies and medical equipment. We are so glad that MAP staff in Liberia can help in these areas and that MAP shipments of medicine are put to such good use. But, of course more is needed.
There is much hope in Liberia as people of this nation have prevailed through much. They pray fervently to God for help and they have the resolve to work towards a better future for all Liberians.