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Liberia President Johnson Sirleaf Must Do More To Improve Nation’s Health Care System, Stamp Out Corruption

New York Times: Stop Treating Liberia’s President Like a Hero. She’s a Human.
Dayo Olopade, author

“One of the saddest stories of this year has been the death of Salome Karwah, a Liberian health worker who was featured on the cover of Time magazine as a fighter in the 2014 Ebola epidemic. … Earlier this year in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, she died from complications of childbirth. Her death draws new attention to the governing structure in Liberia. … Liberian health systems under Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to be elected president of an African nation, were overwhelmed by the outbreak. Just 50 doctors at that time served Liberia’s 4.3 million people. Sluggish education and quarantine efforts failed because of widespread mistrust of the government, and particularly Ms. Johnson Sirleaf. Elected president in 2005, Ms. Johnson Sirleaf has become a sainted figure in development circles: pioneering politician, canny economic strategist, rightful recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. Her story is often yoked to that of Liberia’s ‘market women’ and other female civil society leaders in Liberia … In retrospect, tethering Ms. Johnson Sirleaf’s story to feminist energy feels superficial. What use is women’s empowerment when neglected health systems can so easily snuff out women’s lives? … [H]er reliance on foreign support and tolerance for corruption has stunted local capacity and jeopardized health outcomes in Liberia. … And although the country has made progress since its civil war, Liberia still lags the world in keeping women like Ms. Karwah alive in childbirth…” (4/12).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.