U.S. Ambassador Calls for Integrated Action to Manage Emergencies in Liberia

U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac addresses participants at a high-level ministerial meeting on Liberia’s emergency preparedness in Monrovia April 8.

Monrovia, April 8 – U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac has urged participants at a high-level ministerial meeting to analyze how the Liberian government can work with other stakeholders to coordinate its response to a major disaster and to identify how to improve its ability to manage disasters effectively.

In opening the meeting, U.S. Ambassador Deborah Malac said: “This phase of the disaster preparedness programming brings us together to examine the wide range of issues associated with an interagency and multinational response to a major disaster.” “The task at hand,” she said, “is for us to examine the Liberian government’s disaster management plans, policies, and procedures and, working together, to assess its ability to respond to a major regional or global disaster.”

“As you have seen over the past weeks, the United States and other donors and international organizations are coming to the aid of Liberia and other West African countries to manage the serious Ebola outbreak,” Ambassador Malac said.

Just as in this most recent case, she said the United States and other countries and international organizations stand ready to help Liberia in disaster management from the initial phase of emergency planning to the post operation phase.  “This is a shared priority for us all,” she added.

The U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) and its implementing partner–the Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine (CDHAM)–sponsored the one-day workshop to enable all the participants to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges that are likely to arise during a disaster, as well as to identify gaps and assess the need for modifying Liberia’s disaster management plans, policies, and procedures.

Over the four years of the emergency preparedness program, the United States has contributed half a million dollars to support this significant undertaking and to help organize the event in Monrovia.

High-ranking Liberian officials, including Vice-President Joseph N. Boakai and the Ministers of Internal Affairs, Defense, Health, Transportation, Justice, Gender and Agriculture participated in the five-hour training exercise on April 8 in Monrovia.

U.S. Ambassador Malac, Liberian Vice President Joseph Borkai and other participants in a high-level ministerial meeting on Liberia’s emergency preparedness pose for a group photo.

Other participants included Erik Threet, the Disaster Preparedness Program Manager from AFRICOM, Ebenezer Kofi Portuphy, National Coordinator, National Disaster Management Organisation(NADMO), the Honorable George Kofi Arthur, Chairman,  Parliamentary Select Committee on Defense and Interior, House of Parliament,  Ghana, and Engineer Daniel Gambo, Director of Training and Alhassan Nuhu, Director of Planning, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Nigeria.

Ambassador Malac concluded:  “Your participation in today’s program and the hard work that has been done over the years to draft Liberia’s National Pandemic Disaster Response Plan and the Armed Forces of Liberia Military Support to Civil Authority Disaster Response Plan underscores your strong commitment to be prepared to meet natural disasters and pandemic threats before they arise.”

“It is important for the civilian and military leaders of any country to work together, along with international organizations and members of civil society,” she said, “to mitigate disasters and to help the country recover from any crisis.”

Liberia participated in several Pandemic and Disaster Preparedness Tabletop Exercises, which were held in Ghana in 2012, Nigeria and Togo in 2013; and in a 15-country Regional National Pandemic Response Validation Conference held in Ghana in 2012.

The meetings led Liberia to request the meeting in Monrovia to better plan for disaster and to take a critical look at the issues associated with the governance, organizational structures and capabilities of Liberia’s National Disaster Relief Commission.