On May 5, Ambassador Michael McCarthy and Deputy Chief of Mission Alyson Grunder visited the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) complex in Margibi County, formerly known as Liberia Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR). The National Reference Laboratory (NRL) currently shares diagnostic and office space in the complex. In addition, Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection, a non-governmental organization dedicated to bringing abandoned baby and juvenile chimps back to health, has facilities nearby.
The U.S. Government has provided significant support to LIBR and the NRL for decades. The longstanding partnership was critical during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, when LIBR and the NRL were the headquarters for diagnosing the disease. Today, the U.S. Government is constructing additional laboratory space to meet the increased demands for clinical research and diagnostics for systematic public health surveillance and during public health emergencies. In addition, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is providing operational support to the laboratory and capacity building to NPHIL and the Government of Liberia in public health and clinical research. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the U.S. Department of Defense provide ongoing technical support for improving public health and identifying dangerous pathogens, assistance in obtaining essential laboratory equipment, and training and developing staff.
These partnerships have continued to be effective and proactive in responding to the current COVID-19 pandemic. CDC donated a brand-new PCR machine, the equipment used to determine the outcome of a COVID-19 test, late last year. The NRL staff demonstrated to the Ambassador how the machine works and also cut a ribbon to celebrate the hand off, though NRL has been successfully utilizing it for months to quickly address outbreaks in Liberia and to ensure safety of international travel.
After touring the LIBR complex, the Ambassador and Deputy Chief of Mission met with Jim and Jenny Desmond of Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue and Protection (LCRP). The non-profit organization provides sanctuary for 55 chimpanzees, most of whom were orphaned after their parents were killed by bushmeat hunters. By coordinating closely with the Forestry Development Authority and the Liberian National Police, and with USAID support, LCRP is contributing to the joint Liberia-U.S. effort to counter wildlife trafficking in the country. LCRP recently constructed a state-of-the-art sanctuary on the Farmington River, which includes a large forest habitat and modern care facilities. They also employee and train a growing number of local community members who have an interest in wildlife preservation and animal care.