Ambassador Malac visited Maryland, River Gee, Grand Gedeh, Nimba and Bong Counties from April 13-17.
She said she wanted to see for herself the challenges faced by Liberians in the Southeast and Central parts of the country, and to meet the people and directly hear their concerns.
“I am here to see for myself the progress of various projects supported by the U.S. government,” she told county and local officials, “as well as to see improvements being made by the Liberian government and people in the sectors of health, economy and development.”
She held talks with County Superintendents Betsy Toe-Kuoh in Harper, Maryland and Philip Jah in Fish Town, River Gee, their cabinets and town elders, all of whom emphasized that among the major challenges faced by the counties are the poor condition of the roads, and the lack of a functioning port at Harper.
At Tubman University in Harper, President Dr. Elizabeth Davis-Russell described the progress made by her administration in refurbishing and expanding the campus, and outlined future plans for creation of a Polymer Science Department and a multi-million dollar, state of the art, innovative learning center where e-books, as well as traditional learning materials, will be available.
Ambassador Malac also toured J.J. Dossen Hospital in Harper and the Pleebo Health Center, both of which are being renovated by the non-governmental organization, Partners in Health (PIH). PIH has an agreement to place nursing students trained at Tubman University at the health centers so that they gain practical experience.
She also met with beneficiaries of two U.S. African Development Foundation projects: the Artisan Fishery Association at Fish Town, Maryland, which has which has reintroduced fish to Fish Town as an industry for the villagers, and a small metal-working shop at Ganta, Nimba County, which produces security grates and “Freedom Mills” for domestic use and export and has successfully trained a number of people, enabling them to find jobs as welders and metalworkers.
While in River Gee, Ambassador Malac visited Konken, where the U.S. Government, through the Food for Peace program, has established a small savings and loan association for villagers and is promoting agricultural projects to improve the food security and health of citizens there.
In Grand Gedeh County, Ambassador Malac travelled to Tuglor, a small village of 250 people in Konobo District. There, she saw firsthand how the non-governmental organization, Last Mile Health, through its Frontline Health Worker, Patience, is providing villagers with an array of services, including integrated community case management, pregnancy tracking, treatment for childhood illnesses, and Ebola awareness. Sitting on a small wooden stool under a breadfruit tree, as two small goats grazed on grass nearby, the Ambassador observed Patience carrying out a follow-up survey on a baby, who had been ill and vomiting. Patience asked the mother about the condition of the baby, who had improved since Patience had earlier dispensed some pills to her, and urged the mother to continue using the pills until the treatment cycle had been completed.
The U.S. envoy toured the sprawling, 15,000-inhabitant, PTP Refugee Camp outside Zwedru and spoke to Ivorian refugees and representatives of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, which runs the camp through funds from the United States and other donors.
Ambassador Malac told the refugees that the best solution for them is voluntary repatriation to Ivory Coast, a goal that she said she expects will come true soon. An Ivoirian government delegation is scheduled to travel to Liberia in late April to study the feasibility of allowing refugees to return home.
In Grand Gedeh, Ambassador Malac spoke to 800 high school students, faculty and local officials at Zwedru Multilateral High School, urging the students, especially girls, to stay in school because they represent the country’s future leaders.
“The best gift anyone can give you is education,” Ambassador Malac said. “I am happy to see so many girls here and urge all of you to be focused and stay in school. I have brought with me additional resources for our American Corner here; please make good use of them.”
Ambassador Malac also visited with girls at Bosh Bosh, a local association in Salala, Bong County, founded by a former Peace Corps Volunteer, Charlene Espinoza. There, the U.S. envoy played a video showing Charlene speaking at the White House, describing how Bosh-Bosh benefited girls’ education, and then introducing President and Mrs. Barack Obama at the launch of a “Let Girls Learn” initiative.