MONROVIA-When Liberian soldiers first set boots on the soil of Mali for peace-keeping mission, there was not much national euphoria apparently because of precedence. And so when news of a militant attack and the subsequent wounding of soldiers and plans to take them to another country for advanced medical care emerged from the troubled West African nation, the reactions were mixed. Howbeit, not many people were aware the unfortunate situation was like a blessing in disguise, and that out of the huge miasma would come a remarkable initiative that would monumentally shift the paradigm of Liberia’s decaying healthcare delivery system. So, in his first few weeks in office as the Generalissimo of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), President George Manneh Weah made the hard-to-swallow pronouncement that he would build a military hospital to cater to soldiers and their families. Almost two years later, the deal is done, and an enthralled President Weah said he is on mission to rekindle the national development imbroglio. . The New Republic picks up the details.
Wednesday, September 1, 2021 will go down in history, not only for the men and women of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) but the entire nation, that the first Military Hospital was dedicated and declared open for operations by President George Manneh Weah who initiated the project in 2018.
The avant-garde structure situated in Schefflin, Margibi County comes at the time Liberia is searching for solutions to its dire healthcare delivery crisis – including little or poor medical facilities, lack of equipment and many desensitizing programs.
The oldest independent African nation still faces uphill battle improving its chaotic healthcare system to which many Liberians have lost their lives to curable diseases despite sustained technical interventions in some strategic areas from the international community.
The situation poses tough challenge to the current government amid mounting economic debacles, it seems President Weah is determined to keep heads above troubled waters and make the ultimate efforts towards resetting the button and rekindling the country’s development enmeshment.
At the dedication ceremony, President Weah made known his intention for the country, stating his vision and mission for Liberia.
The President declared his vision is to develop Liberia to the maximum extent possible during his Presidency, while his mission is to complete every project that he embarks upon.
The hospital project, according to development experts, symbolizes the President overriding ambition to change the development outlook, thus putting it on par with neighboring countries that have already enormous and ambitious strides towards development.
It is equally believed that the 14 Military Hospital project fits in President Weah’s development plans for the country as encapsulated in the government’s approved flagship agenda – the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).j
Apart from the many hospital construction projects across the country, the President is involved with the reconditioning and construction of several roads in different parts of the country as part of the national development plans.
He told the gathering that undertaking such project became glaringly visible in January, 2018, weeks after he assumed the presidency when tragedy hit AFL soldiers who are part of a United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.
“One of our soldiers was badly wounded and was taken to Senegal for emergency treatment. I remember when the Minister of Defense, Hon. Daniel (“Zanga”) Ziahkan, informed me of the incident and asked me to call my Friend and Brother Macky Sall, the President of Senegal, to thank him for receiving our soldiers, and for making sure that they received the proper medical attention,” the AFL Commander-In-Chief recalled.
From that moment, President Weah disclosed how he became very concerned about the lack of specialized medical facilities in Liberia for the use of our men and women in arms.
Not only was he concerned, he added, but also wondered why previous administrations did little to provide such essential services to the military.
The President said: “And then I said to Zanga that since Armed Forces Day was coming in a couple of weeks, in my Armed Forces Day Address, I would be bold enough to directly deal with this glaring deficiency.”
According to him, the gloominess of the situation pushed him into deciding to build a military hospital where “we will have specialists that will treat them instead of sending our soldiers who are on the war front fighting terrorism to different countries when they got wounded.”
The President had realized that building such facility would be an important priority of his Administration, stressing “Very shortly thereafter, less than a month after my Inauguration, I gave my first Armed Forces Day Address, on February 11, 2018. On that occasion I announced that we would build a state-of-the-art Medical Center for the use of our Military, their families and dependents, as well as for the use of other citizens of our country.”
Proving skeptics wrong
Besides providing the historicity of the Hospital Project which he terms one of his signature projects, President Weah said the construction and subsequent dedication dispelled hard-held skepticisms that the pronouncement was a mere hoax or an illusion.
National airwaves and other media outlets got deluged with criticisms minutes after President Weah made public his intention, with many questioning his sincerity and commitment, while others raised financial constraints as reasons such project was not possible.
“There were many skeptics, and many critics. But those who thought that way did not know that I am not a man of words, but a man of action. They completely under-estimated my determination, and the strength of my resolve, especially when I am faced with a challenge that seems to be against all odds,” an upbeat President Weah stated.
He used the time to remind Liberians of the character he is: “I talk, and I do. Talk, and do,” a statement that characterizes his vision and actions.
So following months of keenly organized and closely monitored construction works, Liberia celebrates the emergence of a Military Hospital perfectly symbolic of similar structure in the Republic of Ghana where most Liberian government officials received advanced medical attention.
C-I-C Weah announced: “Today, it is now complete and ready for operation. Fully equipped and staffed with a dedicated and qualified team of medical professionals, it will become the central health care facility of the Armed Forces of Liberia, and with its 150-bed capacity, will begin to provide in-patient services as well as outpatient services to our men and women in arms, and their families.”
Though it is built in the name of the AFL, he was farsighted to have announce that the 14 Military Hospital will also provide other specialized services for the general Liberian population in the near future.
The Liberian leader said such services will include certain emergency medical and surgical procedures such as plastic surgeries, and burn care, as well as general surgery. It will become the center of healthcare excellence, providing quality services and comfort for all Liberians.
Thanking friendly nations
At the electrifying occasion graced by high-ranking government officials and international partners, the President gave recognition to friendly nations who played pivotal role in the realization of the project.
President Weah specifically hailed India, China, and the United States of America through their respective Embassies for what he termed “their invaluable contributions to the success of this project.”
While others may be doubting his ability to ‘change water into wine,’ he thinks otherwise, stating that he has a vision and a mission for the country, to develop it to the maximum extent possible during his Presidency.
Not only does he have a vision, President Weah announced that he has a vision to complete every project embarked upon going forward.
Now that the signature Military Hospital project is complete, the Liberian chief executive disclosed plans to shift focus to the development of Bali Island, another signature project of his.
For this project, he is also convinced and determined to prove skeptics who view the Bali Island development as another chicanery wrong.
President Weah noted: “There are many who doubt our ability to bring this project to fruition. But these skeptics do not discourage nor distract me from my mission.”
Quoting the acclaimed Og Mandino, he said: “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.”
God being my helper, the President declared that Bali Island will be another success story, and the naysayers will once again be surprised.
Mega market projects
Liberians are witnessing the offshoots of mega market structures across Monrovia, parts adjacent and other parts of the country since the ascendancy of the Weah-led administration that ended the 12-year leadership of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Unity Party oligarchy.
The under-construction Duala market structure, the completed and occupied Omega-based 14 Gobachev Market, the Duport Road up-graded market, Old Road reshaped market and many others are said to bear testimony to his national development agenda.
As infinitesimal these developments may seem compared to what is required, development experts think President Weah is showing enormous energy to showcase his desire for infrastructural development.
“I worked in Kigali, Rwanda, a country that has made so much inroads in its development overtures. I can state for the records that they started the same way President Weah is proceeding,” remarked a renowned international development expert.
He said Liberia stands to reap good results of development if President Weah remains on the current trajectory intended to rekindle the national development landscape.