Africare News Release



President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia. (Photo courtesy of the President’s Office, Liberia.)


President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia And the Road to Reconstructing a Nation

Africare will honor President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf at this year's Africare Bishop Walker Memorial Dinner: Thursday, October 18, 2007, in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, DC, September 10, 2007 ... November 11, 2005, was a landmark in African political history. It was the day the continent’s first female head of state was elected. With 59.4 percent of the popular vote, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf won the presidency of the Republic of Liberia: a West African nation then emerging from years of civil strife.

In her inaugural address on January 17, 2006, President Johnson Sirleaf stated, “I want to, here and now, gratefully acknowledge the powerful voice of women of all walks of life. Your strength brought us the victory.”

Internationally revered as Africa’s “Iron Lady,” President Johnson Sirleaf also is a leading promoter of peace, justice and democracy.

“I always must find a balance between what represents the nickname of ‘Iron Lady’— that’s where the hard decisions are — and also the one that says ‘Ma Ellen’ — that brings to the table [the] sensitivity of a mother and a grandmother,” noted President Johnson Sirleaf in an interview just after her election. “Now we need something soft to heal the wounds of our nation.”

Liberia’s wounds are deeply embedded. Reconstruction efforts are centered on four key issues: (1) expanding peace and security, (2) revitalizing economic activity, (3) rebuilding infrastructure and providing basic services and (4) strengthening governance and the rule of law. Among initiatives within her first 150 days in office, President Johnson Sirleaf promised to restore electricity to essential parts of the capital city, develop strategies to put Liberians back to work and, more broadly, get the national “financial house” in order. “We need to have schools in every county, hospitals in every county, economic activity in every county… and that’s part of our canteen of promise.”

To tackle these issues head on, Johnson Sirleaf continues to work hand-in-hand with international development and relief organizations like Africare — recognizing that, in order to maintain peace, sustainable development must reach the people.

During the civil war, much of the public infrastructure, including health clinics, was destroyed. Following the 2003–2004 cessation of hostilities, the improvement of primary health care emerged as a top priority. In response, Africare has been working to revitalize health care in some of the Liberia’s most rural, most isolated locales.

Africare’s Improved Community Health Project (ICHP) — funded at $10 million — is a nationwide effort to increase Liberia’s primary health care services, with an emphasis on malaria prevention, immunization coverage and improved clinical services generally. Africare’s model of sustainability and local integration is key to the project’s success: program-implementation partnerships have been established with local non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, while links have been strengthened between outlying communities and more-centrally located clinics. ICHP now manages 37 clinics in three counties, reaching many dozens of heretofore underserved (more typically, unserved) Liberian communities.

"Africare’s work is dedicated to helping Africans help themselves,” noted Africare President Julius E. Coles. “Our programs are constructed with the fundamental belief that empowering communities will develop and sustain healthy economies and infrastructures. Africare joins hands with the people of Liberia as we continue down the road of reconstruction.

“I have known President Johnson Sirleaf for 35 years,” continued Coles. “I have tremendous respect for her and for the passion she has for her country. I am also very pleased that we will be honoring her at this year’s Africare Bishop Walker Dinner, saluting the empowerment of women in Africa: Ellen serves as a shining beacon and a testament.”

On October 18, 2007, at the Africare Bishop Walker Dinner in Washington D.C., President Johnson Sirleaf will be honored for her efforts to bring renewed peace and economic prosperity to Liberia and for her work to enhance the role of women in the reconstruction process. Proceeds from the event will help support Africare’s mission of assistance to the people of Africa.


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