Sunday, October 28, 2007

Last Post Ever

After 16 months we're leaving on the Astreus flight tomorrow. The experience of Liberia has been crazy, and not always enjoyable, but we've seen a lot of positive change in a short time; Liberia's getting better all the time. The city has started paying people to clean up trash, electrical poles are going up all over the place, and soon they're going to start repaving Tubman Blvd. Heck, you can even get cinnamon rolls in the morning now!

I can't wait to see this place in ten years' time. The other day a friend showed us an old postcard of Monrovia from the 1970's and the place looked downright beautiful. Hopefully those days are coming back again. It really depends on the desire of individual Liberians to live in peace with each other. And a lot is riding on the willingness of the diaspora to come home and contribute.

Yesterday out on Old Road I got stuck in a mud bog and couldn't move my company jeep even with the 4WD engaged. I was immediately surrounded by a mob of 20 young men. To be honest, I was a little concerned for my safety. But instead of doing me any ill, without a second's hesitation, the guys volunteered to wade through the mud and push me back to dry land.

When I told her the story, my ladyfriend said, "This country's really changing."

Here's hoping!

Thanks for reading,


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Good Sign for the Economy?

Yesterday morning in the heavy commuter traffic we inched along beside the employee bus from the Ministry of Commerce & Industry and the whole staff was singing together joyfully.

Monday, October 22, 2007

CNN Covers the Female Peacekeepers

Just got this email from our friend Angela who works for one of the big INGOs in Liberia:

I thought that you might be interested in a story shown last night on the CNN International Series “World’s Untold Stories.”

The show aired last night and is largely about the experiences of women and girls during Liberia’s war.

Additionally, India’s female peacekeeping police are prominently featured for their role in training the Liberian police force (men and women).

If you have installed the appropriate software, you can download and view the two parts of the piece at this website: Then go to the piece on Liberia’s Female Peacekeepers! Please feel free to share with all who are interested – it’s a ready made advocacy piece for women and girls in Liberia!

NYU Liberia Event TOMORROW

The NYU Master's Program in Global Public Health presents:
The New National Health Plan & Policy in Liberia: Opportunities
and Challenges in the Reconstruction of a Post-Conflict State


Minister Tornorlah Varpilah
Liberian Deputy Minister of Health for Planning, Research, and Human
Resource Development


Mr. Alexander S. Preker
Lead Economist for Health, Nutrition, and Population, The World Bank

"The vision of the Ministry is a nation with improved health and
social welfare status and equity in health.
We wish to become a model of post-conflict recovery in health and
social welfare." - Minister Tornolah Varpilah

Tuesday, October 23, 2007
12:00 - 1:30pm
NYU Kimmel Center for University Life, Room 910
60 Washington Square South, NYC
Free and Open to the Public

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

To Change the Culture of Work

Liberia is a country where begging someone for money is one of the most common forms of social interaction, and is not looked down upon. People have traditionally looked to government for their daily cup of rice, mainly in the form of civil service jobs, where extra-legal fees can be charged on transactions and whole extended families are fed from the proceeds. Institutions (govt, NGOs, businesses) are commonly seen as fair targets for the extraction of resources for personal gain, and every man's goal is to build or belong to a strong patronage network.

This is all well and good as long as you don't mind perpetual poverty and periodic civil wars. So, in recent days, government ministers and the presidency have been making statements designed to change the way people view their own roles and the role of government. At least in words, they're trying to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship and a rejection of dependency.

Speaking at the graduation exercise of the party's sponsored computer training program, Vice President Boakai said, "Unity Party did not necessarily come to power to provide jobs for the whole country."

However, he maintained that the UP government came to power to provide quality leadership.

He disclosed that there were lots of misunderstanding in Liberia when people vote for a party that wins elections.

He said some of them (voters) can be frustrated over jobs allocation and provision.

Here's more of the article. And if you're interested in this topic, don't miss this short book.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Bednets for Malaria, Yes. But How?

Social marketing, for the uninitiated, is the practice of packaging and selling necessary public health stuff like condoms and essential drugs to change people's behavior for a social good. It was conceived as a way to increase coverage at the margins by targeting those who'd rather buy something than get a handout.

In recent years, groups have been experimenting with social marketing of bed nets, which are seen as an effective way to combat malaria in places like Liberia. Now the WHO is suggesting that it's not working:

Recently, Dr. Arata Kochi, the blunt new director of the World Health Organization’s malaria program, declared that as far as he was concerned, “the debate is at an end.” Virtually the only way to get the nets to poor people, he said, is to hand out millions free.

“The time for social marketing of bed nets in a big way is over,” Dr. Kochi said in an interview. “It can become a supplemental strategy for urban areas and middle-income countries.”

NYT link.

And here's an interesting discussion of the issue at our favorite econ blog, Marginal Revolution.

Call to Write the IMF on the Liberia Debt Issue

Center for Global Development is at it again, sticking up for Liberia in Washington:

And what of the foreign debt? Most was borrowed by Samuel Doe in the early 1980s, and has not been paid since 1984. With penalty interest, Liberians today are stuck with the bill: $4.5 billion, equivalent to a massive 3,000 percent of exports, the highest ratio in the world. The major creditors all have pledged to forgive Liberia’s debts, but the process is stuck at the IMF, where the Board has been debating for a full year how to share the costs of the write-off. A solution seems at hand, but it isn’t done yet, and meanwhile Liberia must wait (if you feel so moved, write this week to the Managing Director of the IMF (email and ask for fast action to resolve Liberia’s debt crisis).

Thanks Sarah and Paul for the link.

Monday, October 08, 2007

$5.7m in New Aid from Germany

MONROVIA (AFP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised Liberia four million euros (5.7 million dollars) to rebuild the country ravaged by civil war as she wrapped up her first sub-Saharan Africa trip on Sunday.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Govt Signs $65.7m Agreement With USAID

Meanwhile, the United States government has assured the Liberian government that, "it is estimated that, subject to the availability of funds, USAID will provide an additional US$75,611,000 in fiscal year 2008 for a grand total of US$141,352,441."