Next Tuesday and Wednesday (2/13-14) in Washington, DC, the World Bank will host a donors’ conference on Liberia. Donors will decide how much to continue investing in the country, just a few years after the end of its civil war. The medical aid group, Doctors Without Borders, says without sufficient investment, illness and disease will claim the lives of many Liberians.
Liberia’s healthcare system relies heavily on the international community. So says Tom Quinn, former head of mission in Liberia for Doctors Without Borders.
“In terms of health, it’s still heavily dependent on the international community. Something in the region of almost 80 percent of all of the healthcare positions in the country is provided through international organizations or faith-based organizations. It’s a country that has possibly some of the worst health indicators in the world,” he says.
Quinn says he hopes Liberia won’t become a victim of donor fatigue.
“Our concern there is that that now that it’s been so long since the conflict that most of the donors, who are emergency aid orientated, and some of the international community will either scale down or basically leave the country, especially so with the donors. And we’re here reiterating the fact and emphasizing that Liberia remains a very fragile context in terms of health. And that absolutely the international community needs to continue to invest for the foreseeable future,” he says.
He says in order to move toward the Millennium Development Goals, about $35 per person per year needs to be spent on health care in Liberia. However, that figure, more than $100 million, is greater than Liberia’s entire national budget.
Asked what would happen if donors fail to invest in Liberia’s health care, Quinn says:
“People will die. There’s no two ways about it. It (Liberia) has a life expectancy at the moment of something like 42 years. Almost a quarter of the children die before the age of five. There’s huge maternal mortality. Malaria, HIV is just starting to kick off quite badly. Diarrhea. All normal diseases. If there’s not continued investment in Liberia in terms of health, then people will die. But there’s no question about that,” he says.
The former head of mission for Doctors Without Borders says Liberia does not lack health infrastructure. It has hospitals and clinics. But he says it is severely lacking in doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
The donor’s conference on Liberia will be held February 13th and 14th at the World Bank headquarters. Following that conference, on February 15th, Liberian ministers and business executives will meet in Washington at the Liberia Private Sector Investment Forum. The Corporate Council on Africa is hosting the event, along with the Liberian government, the International Finance Corporation and the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation.