Thursday, April 30, 2009

Liberian Legislature

Senate ratifies US$2.6B Agreement
Over 3,000 Liberians to get Jobs soon
By Stephen Binda

The Liberian Senate has finally ratified the China Union US$2.6 Billion Agreement, which now clears the way for the Chinese Bong Range in Lower Bong. The 30 Senators also ratified the agreement between to Government of Liberia and Buchanan Renewable Energy (BRE) as well as.
The Senate took the decision on Wednesday April 1, 2009 following more than three hours in an executive session.
The Senate decision follows the House of Representatives decision in which they ratified same agreements thus sending it to the Senate for concurrence.
The two agreement been ratified by the both house of the National Legislature is expected to provide several jobs opportunities for Liberians in the mining sector.
The 2.6 Billion Dollars China Union agreement is the biggest investment so far in the history of Liberia and it would provide and built one million ton-a-year capacity refining factory at the Bong iron mines, about 150 km north of the nation’s capital Monrovia,
The building of the one Million refining factory is expected to be completed within 12 beginning the commencement of it work.
The China Union investment would also create over 3,000 jobs for Liberians within three years and jobs created indirectly in the long run could be as higher as 70,000.
It can be recalled that before Liberia's 1989-2003 civil war, mines were run by a German company, the Bong Mining Company (BMC). But it was criticized for not carrying out development projects in the region.

As for BRE agreement it expected to provide electricity to the surroundings of Monrovia before 2010 according to the agreement.
According to the agreement, BRE is to embark on a 35-Mega Watt power for Monrovia to be fuelled by Liberia rubber wood chips. The Plant according to the agreement is to last for about 25 years.
The construction of the plant and the entire project is valued at US$100m and that the project is intended to provide electricity to the less income individuals on ground that biomass is far less expensive than those using fuel and gasoline.
Meanwhile the company is expected to bring in its final equipment in October this year. They are expected also to embark on a station in Paynesville and later move throughout the country of Montserrado.
It can be recalled that last year, about US 7 equipment were brought into the country and later this year US$ 8.7m worth of heavy duty equipment was brought into the country aimed at ensuring that they live up to the condition of the contracts.
Since the arrival of the company in Buchanan Grand Bassa County, it has spent US$2.1m for the rehabilitation of the highway connecting Monrovia and Buchanan.
According to BRE, fuel will directly come from rehabilitating Liberian rubber plantations, by non-productive rubber trees, and or replanting or supporting plantations owners to replant their property.
The rubber trees are chipped and either sold into the export market for energy for commercial and industrial applications.
The company is been headed by its chief executive officer, Jim Stelle who has disclosed that his company is making all effort in marking sure that power is provided to Monrovia and its surroundings before 2010.
Meanwhile some Liberians have welcomed the two agreements ratified by the national legislature saying that it creates more job opportunities for all.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Charles Taylor Trail

Taylor’s Lawyer Cries for Africa’s Support
-Accuses ‘The White’ of Being Above the Law


Charles Taylor’s Lead Counsel, Cllr. Courtenay Griffiths

By Leroy M. Sonpon, III
The lead counsel to former President Charles G. Taylor of Liberia, Cllr. Courtenay Griffiths is urging Africans to come together and rekindle the hope in championing the cause of all Africans to be treated equally in the world and had accused the West of acting above the law and disrespecting the universal ‘rule of law.’
Speaking to journalists on Monday, March 16, 2009, at the Krystal Ocean View Hotel in Mamba Point, Cllr. Griffiths told journalists that he has not come to Liberia at a critical stage in the trial of ex-President Charles Taylor to make a plea not just for Mr. Taylor but for Africans in general owing to the inhumane treatments being leveled against Africans.
Cllr. Griffiths stressed that one of his missions is aimed to encourage Africans to rekindle the hope that Africans can be treated equally on the global stage, making specific reference to the arrest of Charles Taylor in 2006 and then the more recently indictment of President Al Bashir of Sudan.
The British counsel also told reporters that he is also in West Africa to assess most of his significant witnesses and the significant of their testimonies on the trial of Charles Taylor.
Cllr. Griffiths avowed that the claimed ‘international community’ which is promoting the idea that there can be no impunity for those who commit war crimes and crimes against, have been engaged in the worst.
Cllr. Griffiths noted that since the Iraq war been launched, there has been no one calling on the equal ferocity for either former President George Bush or former British Prime Minister Blair to stand trial for the atrocities instigated and also accused the so-called ‘international community’ of a studied silence as it relates to the crimes committed recently by Israel in Gaza.
“The cruel reality is that impunity only becomes an issue if the perpetrator is a black African who does not enjoy the similar backing of the West, hence Jonas Savimbi will always bne safe from similar sanctions.
“This reminds us when Charles Taylor was arrested and dragged in handcuffs to the Hague in Holland to stand trial, he foretell that ‘they came for him in the morning, but they could come for others at night. That vision has now come true as the President of Sudan can now testify, and watch out it would be Robert Mugabe,” Cllr. Griffiths asserted.
In a poignant tone, Cllr. Griffiths urge Africans to take charge of their own destinies and startling revealed that Charles Taylor trial has received very little publicity in Africa., yet it is the continent most affected by the outcome of those proceedings.
Cllr. Griffiths also revealed that one of the major reasons why Charles Taylor’s trial and other Africans were taken to the Hague instill of Africa is because it is easier to destroy the rights of a people when they are kept in the dark.
“Majority of Africans haven’t got a clue about what is going on in the Hague and it is time for us to shed some light on this misuse of international criminal law, if only we organize to ensure the rights of our African sons and daughters are given proper regard and that international criminal law does not become a 21st century form of neo-colonialism.

“African Union must be prepared to take a public lead on this, particularly in light of statements made in the past by its current president who is evidently aware of these concerns. Likewise the African media must address these issues.

“The African public needs to be informed that this is not just about Charles Taylor, although his case is a useful place to start. We who defend him need your support,” Cllr. Griffiths accentuated.

Commenting on the lack of resources on the continuation of Charles Taylor, Cllr. Griffiths believed that needed funds will be raised and dispelled the rumor to be pressurized to give his defense counsel against ex-President Charles Taylor.
On March -2006, Mr. Taylor was indicted on by eleven counts for the war in Sierra Leone.
According to the indictment, some of the indictments include sexual violent, physical violent, recruitment of child soldiers, adoption of civilians to join the rebel, looting, rape, amongst others.

human rights, society, politics and government.

Monday, April 27, 2009

ECONOMICS

Audit Reports are Not Taboos for the Public
-AG Morlu tells African Auditors General



AG Morlu makes presentation during the AFROSAI-E Board Meeting

The Auditor General (AG) of Liberia, Mr. John S.Morlu II has expressed regret that most of the audit reports conducted by some African auditors general are merely shelved and labeled as taboos to the media, civil society organizations and the public at large.

Speaking Tuesday, 21 April 2009 at the Sixth AFROSAI- E Governing Board Meeting held in Lusaka, Zambia, AG Morlu emphasized that if African auditors general must succeed, the public must be active participants in terms of dissemination of audit information to the public once they are sent to the legislature, president and the auditees.

Auditor General further stressed that the public must know how, where, what and when public monies are spent by those entrusted with public monies. The resources of a country, he said, do not belong to government officials. Government officials are just custodians in ensuring appropriate utilization of public funds, but it is the general public that own the monies and resources.

“The fight for transparency and accountability”, AG Morlu averred, “is not a one or two man show and so audit reports must not be seen like a big secret or sacred document only meant to be kept with the auditors, auditees and the government.”

Morlu then expressed concern that up till now the secretariat of AFROSAI-E are yet to specifically carve strategic plans and policies on the need and importance of communication in the auditing processes. He has the Secretariat has not recruited Communication Manager since a year ago that will plan, organize, carve and structure a general communication plan for AFROSAI-E members.

AG Morlu told his fellow auditors that unlike most auditing commissions; the General Auditing Commission (GAC) is far ahead in recruiting professional journalists for the Department of Communications as well as legal analysts for the Legal Department. Most of the auditing institutions in AFROSAI-E do not have communication and legal departments and he urged them to do so. GAC department of communications has a standard communication policy.

The Auditor General of Liberia, Mr.Morlu was among 22 auditors general from the English and Portuguese speaking countries who attended the Meeting.

Zambian President Rapheal Binda who spoke at the opening program highlighted the challenges and importance of auditing in the transformation of Africa from the shackles of graft, abuse of resources, corruption and fiscal improprieties.

If Africa must develop, President Binda indicated, the age old corruption virus must be fearlessly fought by African Governments. He then lauded the steady strive that some auditors general in Africa are making in protecting public monies.

For her part, the Auditor General of Zambia, Ms.Anna Chifungula expressed compliments to the auditors general for their participation. She said she was pleased that auditors are united in single front to ensure fiscal discipline in their various countries.

Meanwhile, the Chief Communication Officer of the GAC, Ernest S.Maximore cataloguing his experience during the trip to Lusaka, explained that he was surprised that the real and personal properties of public officials who were proved to have stolen government monies were confiscated and auctioned by anti-corruption commission or tribunal .

This he noted, is a worth noted move to deter would-be-corrupt officials from using public monies to own estates and other properties while majority of the people wallow in abject poverty.

He said he anxiously opts for the day and dispensation in Liberia’s history where the fight against corruption will truly match with empirical deeds and where people will not only be suspended or dismissed but made to restitute what they stole from the public treasury.

The Meeting zero-on revamping, restructuring and reinforcing AFROSAI-E six strategies imperatives; namely human resource management, quality assurance, performance auditing, the independence of the Supreme Auditing Institution(SAI),the optimal utilization of information technology in the auditing process and communication and the media.

AG Morlu’s delegation comprises five senior staff: Ron Mwambwa,Head of European Union(EU) Long Term Technical Team assigned at GAC, George Nubo, Director of Operations, Gloria Valhum, Chief of Office Staff, Office of the Auditor General ,Loraine Clarke,Executive Secretary, Office of the Auditor General, Ernest S.Maximore,Chief Communication Officer,Cornelius F.Wennah,Director of Legal Services and Lawrence W. Jackson Manager, Legal Services Manager.

The Delegation is expected home, today Monday,April 27,2009.The Sixth Board Meeting of AFROSAI- was held from 20th April to the 24th .

AFROSAI –E is an organization that succeeds the Southern African Development Community Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (SADCOSAI) which was established as an independent organization in 1991.

The objectives of AFROSAI-E, among other things include, enhancing the audit performance of Supreme Audit Institutions in the AFROSAI-E region; developing and share resources on local and regional levels; promoting and maintaining relations with national, regional and international institutions specializing in issues affecting the audit of public resources and to support regional institutions in promoting good governance.

HEALTH

MOH, Justice Denied My Children Golden Opportunity
---Aggrieved Father

The father of the three children the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare smuggled out of the Mission of the West African Child Support Network (WACSN) Mr. Randall Keculah ----says Acting Minister of Justice, Cllr. Eva Mappy Morgan has denied his children their ever life time golden opportunity that may never come their way again.
Upon the directives of Acting Minister Morgan, she said his children were stopped from leaving the country at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) on grounds that the ministry did not give them clearance of departure.
He said, he, in keeping with law and required legal procedures governing adoption, relinquished the children to the West African Child Support (WACSN) to be adopted under a court degree, which was later climaxed with an interview for visa at the United States Embassy, noting that the effort of the non-governmental organization was wasted owing to the action of Acting Minister Morgan by ordering security officers at the RIA to stop the children from entering the plane.
Addressing himself to the rather unfortunate situation in a chat with reporters yesterday, Mr. Keculah indicated that because of the action of the Acting Justice Minister, the adopted parents have refused to accept the children anymore.
Keculah, a father of seven children, said the mother of the children died during delivery of one of the children who was denied, noting “after completing all paperwork in compliance with Liberian Adoption Laws, which include the granting of a decree by the Probate Court, the children were then approved for adoption by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.”
A press statement issued today quoted him as adding that an independent investigation to establish the biological parenthood of the children was conducted by the US Embassy thereby allowing WACSN to put in place its customary practice of inviting the adopting parents to Liberia to spend three weeks to bond with the children.
Mr. Stressed that a required interview with the US Embassy was scheduled to complete the adoption process after which, the three Liberian children were then issued a visa for travel to the United States by the US Embassy.
After being cleared by Liberian Immigration at the Roberts International Airport, the three children were then stopped with their adoptive parents from boarding the plane by a Liberian government official who insisted that another clearance for departure was required before departing Liberia. In this process, the children were denied travelling to America, while their adoptive parents looked on and felt insulted, embarrassed, and belittled.
“A sad end to this story of the three boys now ends in a tragedy, with their future compromised and their father left in a state of bewilderment. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare illegally removed them from the WACSN Compound without a court order and placed them with street children at the Don Bosco Home,” the traumatized father of the children said.

“Keep in mind that many of these children have been in WACSN’s care for the past three to five years attending private school and being cared for by doctors at the Saint Joseph Catholic Hospital. The tragedy of this situation is the adoptive parent in America has said that they do not want to adopt the children any longer because of the behavior of government officials,” Keculah is quoted as saying in the press statement.
According to Mr. Keculah, the action of the Acting Justice Minister is something he will never forget in life.
“The Minister is a mother and good thing she took her children at the airport to travel to the States, when took that decision my children from going where her children is, now my is now at Don Bosco Home a place where nobody wants their children to be, who knows such opportunity may not come their way again”, he told reporters.
Meanwhile Judge James Zota of Criminal Court “A” has found the Health and Social Welfare Ministry guilty for illegally removing the children from the home of WACSN with court order.
……………………………………………….

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

SOCIETY

Red Cross ‘Lifts’ 28-year-old Female Handicap

The Liberian National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) has provided subsistence for a 28-year-old female handicap including a bag of rice, two saving accounts at a local bank, used wares to sell and a stall at the Ma Juah Market in Vai Town.
During the ceremony, Jimmy C. Diggs, head of the LNRCS humanitarian value section, said the Society has embarked on the process of “supporting a handicap who has been afflicted by the Liberia civil conflict.”
According to him, the afflicted handicap was abandoned. Hawa Kemokai lost her left leg during the Liberian civil war at age 22.
Diggs told journalists that stigmatization and neglect were contributing factors to Hawa not living a full life that she needs to lead as a normal human being.
At the presentation, LNRCS president, Theresa Leigh Sherman, said the organization was thankful that the opportunity was given to the most vulnerable and hoped the assistance would be use wisely.
LNRCS boss also urged the beneficiary to go back to school because, without education all that has been done for her will be mismanaged.
“This is your chance to improve your life instead of being dependent all of the time. You are never too old to learn,” said Leigh-Sherman.
The Secretary General of the LNRCS, Daniel Clarke, disclosed that the US$800 used to provide the assistance package to Hawa was raised by Liberian students at the Ohio University in the United States of America. He noted that the group of students only sent the money to assist a vulnerable in the country and Hawa was chosen by the LNRCS.
The 28 year-old thanked the organization for “saving her life.” She promised to utilize the opportunity had been given her.
She was given a room in which the organization paid six months rental; bought three bails of used clothing; and a bag of rice. She also got a stall paid for at the Ma Juah market and two separate accounts of US Dollars and Liberian dollars at a bank in Monrovia.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

ENVIRONMENT

Dilapidated Buzzy Quarter
-set up for possible epidemic
By Bill E. Diggs
The Buzzy Quarter located east of the Barclay Training Center (BTC), is being faced with problems such as sanitation which shows possible signal of epidemic disease outbreak.
In a brief interview with one Thomas Zayzay, a resident of the community, he said “this community is very dirty to admit. One of the problems we are face with is the feces running from the public latrine from Bassa community and just behind the old labor ministry through this drainage to the mean line”.
He added that during mid-rainy seasons the ‘feces creek’ floods its drainage and climbed up their door steps causing sicknesses including diarrhea, cholera among others.
He suggested that one way to control this pollution is to get the drainage totally covered.
Apart from the drainage being filled with feces which slants through Buzzy Quarter from the foot of Bassa Community hill, many homes have its own stinky swamp either by the side or behind the house which is a possible proliferating ground for ‘militant mosquitoes’ the prime carrier of malaria.
Speaking with an elder of the community, Mr. John F. Wolobah, he acknowledged that most of the community dwellers are reluctant to clean even their own homes claiming that central government should do it for them.
“Many of the houses in this community lack indoor latrines; this makes the two public latrines which we have her insufficient to contain the population,” Mr. Wolobah averred.
He further said if he was to make any form of recommendation it will first begin with the building of more latrines which will help cut the health problems.
“It is time we help the government help us and stop relying [wholly] on the Central Government”, John Mason another resident said. He continued, “When rain starts to fall, we will have to roll our pants up because Buzzy Quarter itself is not properly drained”.
The head of the community, Sapla Tanue, told this reporter that the estimated population of the buzzy quarter community is approximately 8,000, with just two public latrines to their disposal.
These latrines Tanue said was build; one by the government and the other by Merlin during the course of the war.
“This is one of our major plights in this community as it is the mean reason of unsanitary life of many people,” Tanue said.
He therefore called on the Central Government and NGO’s alike to construct more latrines in the area in order to reduce the possible risk of epidemics.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

human rights
“Homeland or Death”
-abandoned scholars exclaimed
Having been abandoned for about six month without allowance in Cuba and published numerous of futile grievances in Local Newspaper and Front Page Africa to get the Liberian Government attention to see reason to send them support or recall them from Cuba, the Liberian students in Cuba has resolved to come home.
“We think it will be prudent for the government of Liberia to recalled all Liberian students from Cuba until a workable system can be put into place, small shame is better than big shame as it is been said in Liberia. Maybe we can also understand that government do not have enough funds to sustain us here this will also help to release more problems on the government” wrote head of students in Cuba, Mr. Patrick Hover.
According to Mr. Hover, about couple of weeks ago Front Page Africa reported a story about their plights as Liberian students. In that story Liberian ambassador to the US, Nathaniel Barnes, said that he was doing everything possible to remits funds through the Embassy of Cape Verde in Washington. Hover said they met with the Ambassador of Cape Verde in Cuba, who contacted their mission in Cuba, and later informed them that the Liberian ambassador to the US, Amb. Barnes is yet to contact the Cape Verde embassy on their plights.
“Barely, three weeks now since Front Page Africa story was published, we are yet to receive a cent from the Government of Liberia, since our arrival in Cuba on the 16th of October 2008, this has become a struggling issue for the past six months now. Truly, speaking we have resulted to selling our personal items just to enable us survive on a daily basis, which is very frustrating and degrading to us as students from Africa first independent nation, Liberia,” Hover added.
He asked “what is the difference between past governments and the Ellen led government? Deadly deceit; depression and insincerity have characterized our 163 years of independence, thus making Liberia to be among the less fortunate nations in Africa. Today, Liberians are talking about downsizing, rightsizing, bad roads, poor health facilities in the counties and students are crying for per dimes. So, who are we going to turn to for assistance?”
Hover further accentuated that Students from Africa and other parts of the world studying in Cuba are finding it very easy, because their governments have understand the condition of that country, and had put in place a system that makes it easy for a stress free studies.
“Of all the scholarship the government of Liberia has given out, the Cuban scholarship should have been given a first preference, because of the ongoing sanction on this country [Cuba]. To prove our case right, the Liberian Ambassador to America, Amb. Barnes, acknowledged the facts about this country by not been able to use his credit card during his short visit here sometime back,” Hover said.
“We can now understand that this is a strategy to prove the Americo Liberians right that the natives do not like education, their strategy is to place hardship during our six years of studies in Cuba. Sending students on scholarship goes with responsibilities as well, these are some of the factors that should be consider. This should not be seen as a privilege for us but it is part of our share values as Liberians citizen, thus making it our rights. Government of Liberia creates desperation and frustration for us calling it scholarship,” he added.
When asked how the scholarship director was responding to their troubles, he disclosed that Mr. Kaizolu has refused to respond to their mails. He said that they want to come back home because the government is not prepare for them to learn; If this scholarship was for Europe or America some of them wouldn’t have come near it.
In an interview with this reporter on Friday March 27, 2009, the Director of Scholarship, Mr. Kaizolu, said they have tried getting money to Cuba despite the country is close to international services such as money gram and western union. “The allowance the students are calling for is something that the Ministry was working on to get to them,” he said.
He did not say how long it will take to get money to Cuba but since then Hover claimed to have heard nothing from him.
“We seem very much betrayed by the government, because we have been crying for the past six months but it seems no one cares; even the public in general. Maybe they want to hear death among us before any one can know that we are speaking the truth,” he said.
In is conclusion he acknowledged Education is the only way out of darkness to the glorious light. A nation without a soul is a nation without a history. “HASTA A VICTORIA SIEMPRE” [FORWARD EVER TO VICTORY, HOMELAND OR DEATH].

Friday, April 17, 2009

human rights

Poverty, Illiteracy, Others Are Recipes to Trafficking
-IOM Consultant Tells Liberians
By Leroy M. Sonpon, III

An international consultant has attributed the rising rate of human trafficking in Liberia and other African countries to ignorance, illiteracy and poverty on the continent.
Consultant Eric Peasa of the International Organization of Migration (IOM), is of the view that human trafficking which concerns the recruitment, transportation, harboring, or receipt of people, mainly children, under the pretext adoption is being perpetuated in Liberia.
He strongly called for reverse of the situation in the best interest of Africa and its people.
The IOM consultant told a symposium in Monrovia recently that there is a dire need for massive and sustained public awareness and education on the dangers of human trafficking.
According to him, latest research conducted shows that human trafficking was rampant in Africa.
He further told the symposium attended by representatives of civil society organizations and the media to play pivotal role in the sensitization of the African people and other stakeholders to join in the global fight against the practice.
Mr. Peasa: “children are the future of any society, as such; the Liberian society must be able to protect its future by protecting every Liberian child by getting involved in the brawl to eliminate human trafficking in Liberia, in any form.”
“Human trafficking is real and we believe the involvement of the civil society groups, by training them, is a campaign to help the government combat human trafficking,” he added.
The consultant is also of the opinion that civil society organizations including the media could be a help in dissimilating information about the ills of trafficking.
“The civil society could also be a help in providing shelter, rehabilitation and reintegration of the affected children. We hope they should not shelf what they have acquired today for the sake of Liberia and Africa at large,” the Ghanaian trafficking consultant further accentuated.
For his part, the National Coordinator of the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, Mr. Freddie D. Goe told journalists that the daylong training symposium for civil society groups sought to enhance the understanding of the participants on the dangers of trafficking and to join the battle against its decimated from Liberia and other countries in Africa.
He observed that there has been rampant illegal adoption of persons by traffickers for personal aggrandizement under the pretext of running orphanages.
The symposium was organized by the Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force of Liberia in collaboration with the International Organization of Migration (IOM).
It brought together representatives from 14 civil society organizations.
Among the participating organizations were Save Africa International, YMCA-Liberia, Ministry of Labor, Christian Media Center, Foundation International Dignity (FIND), Media against Human Trafficking and Human Concern.
Others were Liberia National Law and Human Rights Center, Center for Law and Human Trafficking, Humanist Movement, Liberians United to Expose Hidden Weapons (LUEHW), Christians United for Humanitarian Service, amongst others.
Meanwhile, as part of the global fight against human trafficking, the Government of Liberia(GOL) had frozen the recent adoption of over 30 Liberian children abroad. It subsequently halted further operation of the agency which the state said had been operated illegally.
The GOL, through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare vehemently condemned the activities of the West African Children Support Network (WASCN) which it said was planning to adopt 37 children outside the perimeters of the laws of the country.

Picture See Sammy/Alaska (IOM Consultant Eric Peasa Lecturing On The Ills Of Trafficking)

LIBERIAN HEALTH

society

MOH to Scrutinize Health Workers’ Performance

Ministry Gets 15 Ambulances

By Alaskai Moore Johnson, Health Correspondent & Leroy M. Sonpon, III

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched a survey that will scrutinize the performances of health workers in managing malaria cases in the country.

The survey seeks to insure proper usage of the new malaria drug, Artemisinin-base Combination Therapy (ACT), as its prime objective.

It is part of a nationwide campaign on maternal and newborn mortality reduction, HIV/AIDS prevention and health facility-based survey on malaria.

During the launching ceremonies, which took place at the MOH on Monday, April 13, 2009, UNICEF donated a consignment of equipment for emergency referral and turned over 15 ambulances, purchased with Government funds, to the MOH. Another MOH partner, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) made a donation of a consignment of drugs.

The ambulances, which are to be assigned to the counties, will be used for prompt referral of pregnant women who have complications during and or after delivery.

Also at the program, Cultural Ambassador Julie Endee’s Crusaders for Peace and the Health Promotion Division of the MOH presented a social mobilization documentary geared towards mobilizing the general population to form alliances to promote maternal and newborn health and bring about changes at multiple levels.

“These initiatives are intended to ensure the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 4, 5 and 6 as well as the National Health Plan and the Basic Package for Health Services (BPHS),” a statement from the organizers read.

The UN MDGs 4, 5 & 6 seek to reduce child mortality, improve maternal health and combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases.

At a separate program, meanwhile, an official of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) disclosed that out of every 100,000, 994 women died at child birth in Liberia.

Mrs. Esther Lincoln, quoting the 2007 demographic and health report on Liberia, indicated that the double increase in the country’s death rate is alarming as compared to the 2000 reports which stated that 578 women die for every 100,000 at child birth.

Speaking to participants at a six-day workshop in Monrovia last Saturday, the UNFPA official urged county health teams to help create awareness among women about preventive measures relative to maternal mortality.

She further underscored the need to sensitize women in the country on reproductive health issues, saying “Reproductive health encompasses key areas of the UNFPA vision – that every child is wanted, every birth is safe, every young person is free of HIV and every girl and woman is treated with dignity and respect.”

Mrs. Lincoln asserted that it remains the leading cause of sickness and death for women of childbearing age worldwide.

According to the medical practitioner, impoverished women suffer disproportionately from unintended pregnancies, maternal death and disability, sexually transmitted infections including HIV/AIDS, Gender-Based Violence (GBV) and other problems related to their reproductive system and sexual behavior.

UNFPA is fully committed to mobilizing support and scaling up efforts to make reproductive health for all a reality by 2015. We hope by that time, the maternal mortality rate, teenage pregnancy and others can be kicked out of Liberia,” declared the UNFPA official, who is currently assigned with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

Meanwhile, reproductive health superintendents, reproductive commodity managers and pharmacists from the 15 counties of Liberia, along with representatives of some hospitals in and out of Monrovia, participated the just ended six-day intensive training which was held last week at the YMCA Building on Broad Street, Crown Hill.

It was held on the topic: “Reproductive Health Commodity Supply Chain and Data Management.”

According to Menmon P. Z. Dunah, chairman of the workshop, who also served as a facilitator, the forum sought to enhance the professional capacities of health personnel in the counties and hospitals to improve the country’s reproductive health care program and supply chain management of medicines.

This initiative, he hopes, would benefit public health outcomes by increasing program impact, enhance quality of care and improve cost-effectiveness and efficiency.

“Because young people often face barriers in trying to get the information or care they need, adolescent reproductive health has become a problem in our society, and an important focus of UNFPA programming.

According to him, all programming relies on the availability of essential supplies.

“And in order to tackle the increasing rate of death of Liberian women at child birth, there is a need for us to bring on board the county health teams and major hospitals in Liberia to help UNFPA/the Government of Liberia fight this problem,” facilitator A. Vaifee Tulay stated.

Hospitals and clinics that participated in the trainings included the John F. Kennedy Medical Center (JFK), Redemption Hospital, St. Joseph Catholic, ELWA, SDA Cooper, and Merci hospitals.

Others were Goodwill, Malag, Mawah, Star of the Sea and SOS hospitals.

The symposium was organized by the Family Health division and Supply Chain Units of the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.

It was held with the sponsorship of the United Nations Population Funds (UNFPA).

POLITICS

More Trouble Looms at Guthrie

Impact of Riot Grave

By M. Welemongai Ciapha, II

General situation at the Guthrie Rubber Plantation (GRP) in Bomi and Grand Cape Mount Counties remains troubling in the aftermath of workers’ strike actions that effectively halted operations there.

Last month, hundreds of angry workers staged a strike action that left several persons severely wounded, properties ransacked and set ablaze.

Guns were allegedly fired during the protest at the rubber plantation with fingers being pointed at Bomi County Senator Lahai Lasana who the workers claimed, had opened fire on them, using two silver pistols.

Conversely Senator Lasana had dismissed claims of his involvement in any shooting.

However, there are other reports that the Senator was held hostage by the aggrieved workers when he visited the plantation during the demonstration but the workers too, had refuted the reports.

Amidst claims and counter-claims from both sides, a team of journalists from the Judicial Reporters Network (JRN), and Journalists for Human Rights (JHR), Wednesday, April 1,2009, visited the controversial plantation on a facts-finding mission.

The journalists were met upon arrival there by some of the plantation workers.

The workers narrated that they were seriously opposed to their dismissal or downsize by the transitional management team of Guthrie.

According to the workers, they were “downsized” on November 30, 2008, without being paid for services rendered they had the plantation’s interim management team.

The spokesman of the workers, Othello Washington, further explained that the management had not met its salary obligations to them.

According to him, of the 359 employees downsized, approximately 60 persons were from the Nursery Department, while 156 from the Monitor Department.

The monitors, he added, were also serving as security personnel on the plantation.

He alleged that one Teage, believed to be the General Manager of Guthrie Rubber Plantation (GRP) laid them off.

The workers further indicated that Dr. J. Christopher Toe, then, Minister of Agriculture had earlier informed him (Mr. Teage), that rubber stumps produced at the plantation were not productive. This assertion could not be independently confirmed from Dr. Toe who had already resigned his position from the government.

Washington further said the dismissal letters were issued them by one Zulu Seth, Production Manager of the company.

The dismissed workers alleged that they were denied their medical benefits and other arrears in line with the labor practices laws of the country.

According to labor law, for the two years we had worked here, we are entitled to US$ 300.00 each” he contended.

Mr. Washington further told journalists that the entity’s management had been “dribbling” them for their money.

He added that this delay in their payment warranted their strike action last month at the plantation.

He reiterated threats that if nothing was done to address their plight by the management team, more strike actions would be taken until they receive all of their “legitimate entitlements.”

Quoting Italian political Scientist and philosopher, Niccoolo Machiavelli, who, according to him, once said: “If peaceful negotiations cannot take place, let brutality take place.”

James S. Tamba, another downsized worker from the nursery beds, appealed to President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf to ensure that investors take over the management of the Guthrie Rubber Plantation.

Tamba recalled that in yesteryears when Guthrie was managed by “credible international investors, things were fine.” But, he said, the current management team cannot manage the farm as they lacked the necessary vision and professional focus.

One Joseph Clarke, who claimed to have used his pick-up marked TP- 0946 to take rubber to the weighing station at Guthrie claimed that he had not been paid by the plantation for his work.

In protest against the interim management team’s alleged failure to pay him, he set a road block with his pick-up to halt a Mack truck, TT- 1168 from leaving the station.

The truck, Clarke said, had gone to Guthrie to uplift rubber from the farm.

Clarke further reporters that he was hired by the management to, on a contractual basis, haul rubber with his pick-up from the bush.

Clarke who appeared disgruntled issued volumes of threats, saying if management did not settle his two months arrears, the truck, TT- 1168 could never leave with the consignment of rubber from the plantation as he could no more accept any delay.

He claims that management was indebted to him for January and February work amounting to a total sum of US$ 937.00.

When contacted for comment on the workers’ multiple allegations, Mr. Daoda V. Metzeer, personnel manager for Guthrie confirmed that the workers were downsized.

He justified the action, saying it was necessary because production at the plantation had declined.

Mr. Metzeer added that the plantation management had acted on the alleged advise of the Rubber Task Force of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL).

However, the Task Force could not be located for its reaction to the revelation by the Guthrie official.

He quoted the Task Force as saying the downsize was necessary because rubber price, on the global market had declined.

Mr. Metzeer further disclosed that most of the sacked workers were non- productive.

During the visit at the plantation, it was observed that educational, health and other basic social services were at their lowest ebb.

At a local ‘clinic’ at the plantation, a lady who had just given birth to a child, informed reporters that nurses only give them prescriptions for needy drugs and they have to go out to buy the drugs.

However, the clinic administrators refused to talk with the press when contacted for comment on the problems and other developments at the clinic.

Residents who lived in the 26 camps at Guthrie said, they lived on creek water, a situation they said was responsible for increasing rate of cholera in the area.

For his part, Emmanuel Raffell, Supervising Principal for 16 schools in Guthrie described the learning atmosphere there as pathetic.

Principal Raffell said some of the students have to walk for two or more hours to get to their schools.

Speaking on the recent riot at Guthrie, Mr. Reffell said the community school, which has a population of over 1,010 students, was massively looted.

The looters, according to him, brandished sticks and other deadly weapons during the looting.

“There was a complete state of anarchy, I risked my life to safe some of our school materials,” he added.

Mr. Raffell further told journalists that the looters broke into the school ware house and made away with 11 cartons of cooking oil, beans, microscope 58 bags of rice as well as one 5KVA generator.

Mr. Raffell further disclosed that the total population of students at Guthrie is approximately 3,446 and 94 teachers.

He is appealing to Government and the Ministry of Education to go their aid.

Another resident had disclosed that a depot belonging to the Liberia National Police was set ablaze. It is clear who burnt down the police station.


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