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Representatives of the Government of Liberia

Civil society

Development partners

Ladies and gentlemen

All protocols observed

Good morning,

I am honored to be here today to launch this national-level campaign aimed at improving access to and availability of donated medicines for the people of Liberia. This campaign marks a pivotal moment in our collective efforts to address a critical issue that affects the health and well-being of every Liberian.

Last year, USAID and the Global Fund donated 14 million US dollars in life-saving medicines and other health commodities to the people of Liberia. These essential health products significantly reduce preventable deaths or severe illness due to diseases that can be treated or cured.

For example, Liberia receives enough testing and treatment products to diagnose and treat every citizen who contracts HIV or malaria free of charge.

Unfortunately, due to fraud and mismanagement, these donated health commodities  are often not reaching Liberians who need them.

I have witnessed this problem firsthand. I have seen empty  dispensary shelves in public health facilities across the nation.  And, I have spoken with Liberians who have suffered needlessly because they were unable to fill prescriptions they received from their healthcare providers.

Let me share with you a story about Beatrice – a young mother who traveled many miles on foot carrying her sick daughter, Joy, to a public health clinic.  Joy was diagnosed with malaria, but the clinic could not dispense the medication she needed due to a completely preventable drug stockout.  This systemic failure put a child’s life in danger, while also endangering the lives of others by failing to halt the spread of the disease. Beatrice is just one of many mothers who could share similar stories.

I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the invaluable work of community health assistants in Liberia. They play a crucial role in detecting and treating diseases like malaria, contributing to Liberia’s success in halving childhood malaria cases, with support from the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative. However, imagine all they could achieve if all Liberians had easy access to free testing and treatment options.

USAID is committed to ending corruption and mismanagement within the public health supply chain for donated medications and putting a stop to drug stockouts. But we cannot do it alone. Partnerships are the key to overcoming these challenges and every stakeholder in this room has a role to play.

The Civil Society Health Coalition is already identifying where the problems are and helping us understand what we need to do to improve the supply chain system. We are proud to support these efforts through USAID’s Civil Society Activity.

In fact, I would like to take a moment to recognize the extraordinary Liberian organizations that form the Coalition:

Community Health Education and Social Services

Efficient Research and Development Institute

Humanity Above One-Self Foundation

Public Health Initiative Liberia

Volunteers United for Development, and

Youth Network for Positive Change

They have worked tirelessly to monitor distributions, resolve issues, advocate for system improvements, and raise awareness that donated medicines are free and should not be sold. Let’s give them a round of applause!

I call upon the Government of Liberia at all levels to support and complement the Coalition’s work. In order for these dedicated civil society organizations to succeed, they need access to healthcare facilities, county-level officials, and national level officials.

The Government of Liberia will also benefit from constructive partnerships with the Coalition. For example, Public Health Initiative Liberia – a Coalition member – recently discovered that a healthcare professional was selling donated tuberculosis medications that should have been free of charge.  The organization provided the County Health Officer with the information required to take disciplinary action.  This precedent now helps to discourage similar acts of corruption.

I also want to commend the Margibi County Health Team’s participation in a stakeholder meeting convened last week by Humanity Above One-Self – another Coalition member – to identify ways to improve the system for distributing donated medicines. I look forward to the implementation of the great ideas discussed.

Let these stories serve as models for future collaborations. Government-coalition partnerships are essential to resolving the tough challenges we will face as we work towards our shared goal of improving access to donated health commodities.

Within this context, I urge the Government of Liberia – be it at the community, county, or national level – to work with civil society as an ally in the effort to expedite the last-mile distribution of donated health products to public health facilities, which is critical to ending drug stockouts.

To make a meaningful and sustainable impact on reducing fraud, the Government of Liberia must also assume more responsibility for ensuring accountability.

The recent indictment of members of the Margibi County Health Team and other complicit parties for corruption is a step in the right direction.  The next important step is prosecution.  And if the accused are found guilty, they must be punished in accordance with the law, taking into consideration the magnitude of the crime, to discourage others from corrupt practices.

I would also encourage the new Minister of Justice to continue the work of his predecessor by moving forward with investigations that target the wider networks responsible for stealing donated medicines from the people of Liberia and selling them for a profit.

We must all do our part to improve the system. Continued corruption and supply chain mismanagement jeopardizes the likelihood that donors will continue providing these vital health products. It is important to take into account that most of this funding comes from hardworking American taxpayers, not a never ending well of assistance.

In closing, I extend my heartfelt gratitude to everyone joining us here today. Your presence demonstrates your dedication to improving citizen access to free lifesaving medicines in Liberia.

Let us continue to strengthen our partnerships, hold ourselves and others accountable, and work towards a Liberia where no one suffers needlessly from preventable diseases.

Thank you.

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