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Quarantined Community

Residents of Neidonwen Town, a community highly hit by Ebola-hit in Margibi County, where 17 year- old Abraham Memeigar was diagnosed with the disease have expressed frustration over the manner in which they were being treated by the Ministry of Health and its partners when they were quarantined.

The Neidonwen residents expressed frustration Wednesday, August 5, 2015, when the Liberian Media for Democratic Initiative (LMDI) held a public dialogue forum with them to understand the plight of the people, the recent Ebola outbreak, funds given and materials used to combat the disease.

Speaking during the dialogue, Neidonwen Youth Chairman, Abraham Garway, said during the outbreak and quarantine period, they were asked to remain at their various homes with an assurance of providing basic food items and other needs during the 21 days period, but unfortunately, he said the promise was reportedly unfulfilled by relevant authorities.

Residents explained that on several occasions, their names were written and tallied for food rations and preventive materials by the Health Ministry and other international organizations, but indicated that food and supplies were never given as promised.

However, in reaction, the Community Health Officer of Neidonwen, Miatta Massaquoi, said several food and materials were distributed to the affected persons and family of deceased 17-year old Abraham Memeigar because they were directly quarantined.

According to her, the entire village was never quarantined, noting that they should not have provided food rations to everyone because the entire town was not quarantined and besides, the rations were distributed by international non- governmental organizations and not the Ministry of Health.

It can be recalled that health authorities announced a new confirmed Ebola case in Margibi County in June this year. The head of Liberia’s Incident Management System Tolbert Nyenswah said Abraham Memeigar, a 17-year-old boy who died on Sunday, June 28 at his father’s residence in Unification City was Ebola- related.

Nyenswah said specimens extracted from the victim were confirmed Ebola positive following meticulous medical tests. He said about 28 persons were quarantined for being in direct contact with Memeigar before his death.

Schools Closed . . . Back To School

Though the Liberian Government has declared schools closed as of July 31, 2015 to re-open in September 2015 to restore the nation’s academic calendar, some schools are said to be running classes up to present.

Under the guise of vacation school, tutorial, or extra classes, many of those schools reportedly in session allegedly charge fees as all students, including 9th and 12th graders wear color clothes to classes.

This paper has gathered that the schools involved have planned for their 9th and 12th graders to attend classes to get prepared and join re-sitters for pending WAEC exams.

The reported development has rattled many parents who are striving to register their children in August as mandated by the government to ensure the re-opening of schools in September this year.

“We don’t even know what control the Ministry of Education has over private schools in this country because most of the schools that are allowing their students to attend classes are privately owned,” a disgusted parent in Paynesville  noted Thursday.

At a closing program of one private school on Bushrod Island recently, a school authority disclosed that 9th graders there would be given special lessons every day after the closure in order to prepare them to sit for the WAEC exams.

A roaming reporter of the In Profile also observed on Bushrod Island yesterday that scores of students were in uniforms, adding, “Most students are said to be attending what they called summer school because they could not pass due to deficiencies.”

A school administrator also told the roaming reporter last week in Monrovia that most students declined in their academic performance due to the decision taken by the Ministry of Education from the onset to close schools without promotion.

The government’s decision to close schools across the country on July 31, 2015 to be re-opened in September overruled recommendations from the 53rd National Legislature, among which the august body recommended that the academic year should continue until September and that 9th and 12th graders be mandated to attend Saturday classes to prepare them sit for the WAEC exams in September this year.

The recommendations also indicated that Education Minister George Werner should withdraw his letter written WAEC authorities seeking cancellation of the exams this year but these recommendations are said to be side brushed.

To this, a Lawmaker who doesn’t wish to be named sarcastically wondered “what a mess of a situation; we have an educational system we consider ‘messy’, we added more mess by promoting many students who did not need to be promoted in one semester and now we have school administrators trying to correct the ‘mess’ by requiring students they have promoted to go back to school for refresher, so why did we really close schools?  What a mess!”

 

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Action Aid Ends Validation W/shop

By: Precious Gaye/0886539331/pgaye2042@gmail.com

Empowering through awareness to influence policies, Action Aid has concluded a two- day workshop in Monrovia.

Following a month- long assessment done in ten communities in Monsterrado, Gbarpolu, Margibi and Grand Cape Mount Counties on the effects of (EVD), over forty participants gathered at Sharks’ Entertainment Center in Sinkor on August 7-8 to submit a valid Post-Ebola recovery plan.

Speaking at the program, Action Aid Country Director, Korto Williams said: “We have members of communities, representations of the government, Media, women group, civil societies; when we share our ideas, [whenever] there is a conflict that affects our country. We will be in a position to respond and not have a high death toll.”

With an aim to advocate for policies, Madam Williams added: “We are trying to reach a citizen chart.”

Day two was marked by presentations done by four groups on policies reviewed such as the National Disaster Management Policy, National Health and Social Welfare Policy, the Agenda for Transformation (AfT) 2012-2017 and the Economic Stabilization and Recovery Plan.

Subsequently, participants concluded on the need for better analysis of policy documents, with the involvement of experts, getting the media to disseminate and simplify in other forms of communication, and create a platform to engage stakeholders.

In appreciation of the program,   Head of the National Rural Women Group in Margibi County, Esther Clarke, acknowledged: “Action Aid has been to our county to carry out [awareness]; they empower us by training us, though we were not part of the Ebola response.”

Madam Clarke also stressed: “This exercise should be implemented, we should not only [attend] workshops to add our voices after we [leave] everything [ends], we expect it to work.”

At the close of the program, assuring Action Aid’s commitment, Head of Programme and Policy, Laskshmi Moore, remarked: “We are building capacity of community around understanding policies. We know communities were not [informed] about existing policies and technical gaps around that.”

Founded in 1972, Action Aid works with local partners in over 45 countries, helping more than 15 million impoverished and disadvantaged people. Its head office is located in South Africa.

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GBA Fosters Unity

By: David S. Johnson/dsavid41@gmail.com / Intern

A newly founded youth-based organization in the Sophie Community, called Golden Bird Association (GBA), has vowed to foster unity among community members.

GBA, through its Chairman on Mobilization, Arthur Holder, said it will carry out the exercise by creating awareness on issues, including teenage pregnancy, harmful substances and other vices that pose danger to the society.

In an interview with the In Profile Daily on Saturday,  Holder said the organization intends to venture into awareness and counselling on teenage pregnancy and enlightening youths on being positive.

The GBA Mobilization Chairman noted that the organization was founded on July 12, 2014 with the aim  of promoting and scouting youthful talents as well as creating unity within the community and its surroundings.

According to him, one of the organization’s targets is the issue of tackling HIV/AIDs through awareness; which is one of the most prevalent sicknesses among young people.

Holder named another challenge confronting young people as  harmful drugs’ consumption by young people; something he noted the organization has been working to mitigate.

The GBA Mobilization Chairman also said if youth in the community are not properly educated to the effects of harmful drugs’ usage as well as the danger teenage pregnancy poses to young women, they will become addicted to such harmful substances thus impeding girls’ educational and social status.

Drug usage, he stressed, “starts with the individual and spreads through influence to other youths in the community as such, the organization seeks to give out free counselling to youths who are constantly involved with these negative practices.”

He continued: “It would be of importance if a fellow youth is helping in the process of mobilizing, counselling and creating awareness on important issues which seek to attract another youth into listening.”

Also speaking, the President of GBA, Mayango Sinnatuah, expressed frustration that the organization is not being supported by other well-meaning Liberians despite these meaningful contributions. “Rather, we are depending on internal source for income generations,” he said.

Sinnatuah also said: “The entire finance for this organization is being generated from the members through voluntary donations and dues.”

The GBA President also informed the In Profile Daily that though they have sent out several letters for support to organizations within the community and its environs, there hasn’t been any reply.

Sinnatuah said the organization is hoping to reduce illiteracy among youth in the community through awareness on the prevention of Human Immune Virus or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs) and its prevention.

He said they are anticipating the help of other organizations to help in buttressing their initiatives and further encouraged other communities to initiate programs that will empower youth for a brighter future.

Meanwhile, youths in the community have expressed satisfaction for the establishment of the organization which they said is fostering unity among them.

Deficits Hit Cocopa! -Layoff Imminent

By: Fredrick P. W. Gaye & Gborontaye Gboron

Despite court ruling in favor of the Government to take over the Cocopa Rubber Plantation in Nimba County, situation at the plantation is said to be going from bad to worse; thus putting the workers at loggerheads with the caretaker company.

The Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) was appointed by the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, to take care of the plantation after GOL sued LIBCO for not performing consistent with the GOL-LIBCO Agreement.

It can be recalled that recently, workers of the plantation threatened to go-slow in demand of their four-month salary arrears that management allegedly owes them.

Speaking to the In Profile Daily in Ganta recently, the President of Cocopa Workers Union, Sarpah B. Mah, alleged that for the past four months, the company has not paid their salaries; something he said is creating serious hardship on workers and families. Mah put the number of workers at 1, 165 and tappers alone at 492.

However, he said management paid them only one month salary during the July 26 Independence celebration.

When contacted at his Congo Town Office on Saturday, August 8, 2015, Nimba Rubber Incorporated (NRI) General Manager/Chief Executive Officer, Solomon S. W. Gaigaie, admitted that the company owes the employees four months’ salary arrears; but said management has paid one month, while the arrears of three months still outstanding. He named the remaining months as May, June and July of 2015. Gaigaie also said the NRI owes other vendors due to the situation.

He alleged that since the court ruled and turned the plantation over to the government, employees have been reluctant to work, thus affecting production.  “This reduction in production, coupled with the drop in rubber price on the world market, creates a condition where the company spends far beyond its sales, adding to accrued deficits,” Gaigaie explained.

According to him, NRI took over the company on October 1, 2013, at the time when previous company, LIBCO, had not paid employees for three months (July, August and September of 2013) and other vendors in the amount of US$1,180,057.00 (one million one hundred and eighty thousand fifty seven United States dollars).

The NRI head told this paper that negotiations are ongoing to settle the employees’ salary arrears by September 12, 2015.

He disclosed plans by management to pay off all employees due to overstaff in the face of drop in rubber price, coupled with reduction in production. For the payoff, he said it will be done in phases; though he did not mention how many phases.

Gaigaie claimed that the plantation was overstaffed by LIBCO when rubber price was high, but failed to reduce staff when rubber price started dropping on the world market; something he said has created serious problem for NRI.

He, however, said NRI will recruit manageable staff and employees following the payoff exercise in order to make the plantation profitable. “What we are doing now is like running an NGO. But we will recruit manageable staff and employees to make the plantation profitable,” he emphasized.

To keep the plantation from collapse, Gaigaie said government had intervened by paying US$411,087 to pay the inherited three-month salary arrears and supply rice to employees.

Since 2013 up to present, as indicated in its 16-month report made to the 8th Judicial Circuit Court in February 2015, Cocopa has not been able to pay employees and vendors, he said, adding, “So, as a management, we have always subsidized to settle salaries to employees and other operation expenses.”

In the report, which covered October 1, 2013 to January 31, 2015, Gaigaie explained that NRI, in collaboration with its partners, invested US$2,105,363.35 (two million one hundred five thousand three hundred and sixty three United States dollars thirty five cents), in addition to the US$1,588,554.00 (one million five hundred eighty eight thousand five hundred fifty four United States dollars) generated from rubber sales during the period under review.

The former, he said was a deficit after spending US$3,693,917.45 (three million six hundred ninety three thousand nine hundred and seventeen United States dollars forty five cents) on salaries, wages, benefits and other operation activities during the period under review.

Additionally, an NRI record covering February-July 23, 2015, indicates a down trend of monthly sales that were far less than salaries. NRI made a net sales of US$47,415.75 (forty seven thousand four hundred and fifteen United States dollars seventy five cents) in March 2015, with salary payment of US$128,884.60 (one hundred twenty eight thousand eight hundred eighty four United States dollars and sixty cents) in said month.

US$100m Investment Pinches -APM Terminal “Operations Economy Backlash”

By T. Michael Johnny 0886571899/0775820581

A 25-year concession agreement valued at US$100 million signed by the government and APM Terminal to manage, operate and modernize the National Port Authority (NPA) in February 2011, has been slightly criticized for its high taxes charged and undue bureaucracies in its cargo handling.

During public hearing of the Government-APM Terminal agreement in 2010, former Senators Isaac Nyenabo and Abel Massally of Grand Gedeh and Grand Cape Mount Counties respectively were apprehensive over the agreement both in contest of monetary value and scope of operations relative to the ailing economy.

The “meagre” US$100 million deal, according to the ex-vocal lawmakers was extremely minute in terms of investment for least developed countries like Liberia and doubted the institution’s immediate authority over the aging dilapidated port whose facilities dwarfed its modern counterparts.

Giving their input during deliberations and discussions at plenary session in 2010, the ex-senators argued that the investment capital provided by APM Terminal could have been allocated in government’s budget and continue its operation instead of conceding to US$100 million agreement in which profits accrued by the institution would be used for “snail modernization” as evidenced by ongoing works.

Shuttling through countless APM Terminal offices at the busy NPA facility, a custom officer only identified as Peters frowned that undue bureaucracies and high taxes charged by the company have greatly contributed to the increase in prices of goods on the local market.

“It’s now a little bit difficult since APM Terminal took over operations of the port back in February 2011; taxes previously charged when the government was firmly in control have increased and this is a direct result of the agreement signed by the Unity Party-led government headed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government,” Peters claimed.

Informed sources at the Freeport who prefer anonymity confided in the In Profile Daily that the government and APM Terminal agreement is strictly based on alleged mutual consent with authorities in officialdom pocketing “lump sum monies” to protect the business interest of the company.

“Even before the deal was signed and operations formally commenced in 2011, the concession agreement was heavily criticized by a cross-section of citizens who held the opinion that taxes would dismally increase; here we are today,” said one anonymous source.

Under the leadership of suspended Managing Director Matilda Wokie Parker, the APM Terminal agreement was branded as “important partner” in building an infrastructure that would be enviable among ports in Africa, but five years following operations, there are still visible signs of limited improvement, although they have two decades to their credit.

Operating on approximately 600 meters quay, APM Terminal Liberia operates the Freeport of Monrovia, which constitutes the gateway to Liberia’s economy and boasts of “impressive multipurpose facility” composed of equipment to handle cargoes such as rice, cement, latex, unitized or palletized cargo, vehicles, frozen products and timber.

Although importers have increasingly complained about high taxes, however, authorities of APM Terminal said they are committed in creating new jobs, careers and training opportunities for Liberians that will create lives for generations.

The company said in leadership ranks, they are also committed to have local Liberians comprise 50% of its executives by 2016, claiming that they are on track to achieve it with 40% of its leadership team already comprising Liberians following 2014.

 

Busted! -DEA Storms ‘Turtle Base’

By: Lewis K. Glay 886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com

At late morning Tuesday, the premises of the ‘Turtle Base,’ a notorious terrain in Paynesville experienced the wrath of newly recruited officers of the Drug Enforcement Agency under the command of Major William J.S. Sarville assigned in Paynesville.

“Alarm blow, alarm blow,” a travelling bag seller shouted as more than a dozen of drug users forced their way out from a portion of a demolished structure that was still erected and sealed with rumpled tarpaulins.

Like a colony of bees, the drug users, predominantly car loaders, fled their hide-out leaving behind personal effects, leaping helplessly under the influence of substances they appeared to have consumed in the morning hours.

Shortly, scores of DEA officers rushed on the scene from the arrear with knives and other instruments and brought down the tarpaulins as the occupants were in disarray.

In a distance at the arrear, a multitude of young people, supposedly those who are said to be lured into using harmful substances stood agape tweeting into the direction where the DEA raid was taking place near the main Red-light-ELWA route.

In a brief chat with Major Sarville on the scene, he noted that the exercise is a regular routine aimed at discouraging any community to keep drug users to cause insecurity among the populace.

“I’m Major William J. S. Sarville, Deputy Commander of Red-light Detail.  We try to do this exercise for Liberia to be freed from drugs. In Red-light, we demolish all suspected drug selling places.  This is what we are doing today along with the new DEA recruits…,” the officer in command of the operation told the In Profile during the raid on Tuesday, August 4, 2015.

Deputy Commander Sarville used the opportunity to appeal to the Liberian Government to support the efforts of the DEA to demolish all ghettos in Paynesville.

He assured the public that with the breaking down of drug users’ hide-outs at ‘Turtle Base,’ officers of DEA in Paynesville will continue to make their presence felt in the area, emphasizing that the particular area being occupied by those under the influence of unauthorized drugs has remained fearful for ordinary citizens to pass because most people continue to be victims of regular robberies there.

Though onlookers, especially citizens who reside in the midst of the drug users  stood by and appreciated the exercise of the DEA by nodding their heads and whispering their disgusting feelings about the inhumane activities of the young people who find themselves in the use of  harmful substances, a single concern  on the lips of  the residents and officers of the DEA present  remains how the land  being misused can be properly taken care of by the rightful owner to get the drug users out of the community;

Rep. Fahnbulleh Commended

By Kelvin Teikah Kpakolo/kpakolok@gmail.com/0886190023/0770326443

The youth of Montserrado County District Four have commended Representative Henry B. Fahnbulleh for his role played during the fight against the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia.

Speaking in an interview with the In Profile Daily last weekend, Joseph Yallah, Chairman of Youth in Action for Total Change (YATC), said Representative Fahnbulleh role played during the fight against the deadly Ebola virus showed that he is a hero and someone who believes in human capacity building.

According to him, Representative Fahnbulleh donated Ebola preventive materials, including food and some basic needs for residents of the district

He also noted that Representative Fahnbulleh provided scholarships for residents of the district since the re-opening of school in the country.

Yallah noted that the lawmaker used the Ebola period to unite residents of the district, something he said was in the best interest of the people.

Meanwhile, Representative Fahnbulleh has thanked the youth of the district and promised to continue to work in their interest and the district, noting that the district can never forward when they are not together and working as one family.

 

Phase One Textbooks’ Distribution Completed?

The Ministry of Education said it has completed the first phase of distribution of textbooks and school materials to some public schools in the country.

Though the process started in mid June and ended in July, some schools did not receive materials, Deputy Project Coordinator of the Global Partner for Education Project at the Ministry of Education, Joe Gbasakollie said: “When we did the assessment for the distribution, there were so many schools listed but due to the rain, we could not reach some schools. We have strategized that the CEOs and DEOs sign for books because it’s our primary goal for the students to receive the books.”

It is not yet known how many schools benefited, but Gbasakollie added: “We are doing a comprehensive report that will be concluded this week on all the schools that were served; [institutions] that were not reached. When we get that, we will tell you the total number of schools.”

Another reason that contributed to the unfinished process, Gbasakollie disclosed:  “We used the enrollment data gotten from the Ministry done in 2011-2012 for the distribution; we understand that some schools came into existence following that survey. The {pieces of}information need to be validated by CEOs and DEOs for such schools to form part of the distribution.”

With more than two hundred members of the distribution team, including County Educational Officers (CEO) and District Education Officers (DEO) to curtail irregularities, Gbasakollie stressed: “We did a school- to- school delivery unlike the methods used in the past in which we experienced shortfalls.”

There may be a second phase of textbooks distribution as Gbasakollie noted: “We still have textbooks, readers in excess at Ministry of Education warehouses around the city.”

In June 2015,  Gbasakollie  said “1,000,000  textbooks for grades 5-9 for the four core subjects, English, Math, Science, Social Studies with 20,000 teachers guides, supplementary readers for grades1-4, and instructional materials  for pupils in grade 1-9,   have been procured and stored at counties’ capitals to be distributed simultaneously nationwide.”

He further noted: “We are planning to dispatch a team by the 17  of this month; the distribution team is comprising  over 200 staff of the ministry’s central office, including 15 County Education Officers (CEO), 98 District Education Officers (DEO), and 5 professional staff  from each  county. “

The project is funded by the Global Partnership for Education, (GPE) and managed by the World Bank, while the implementing arm of the government is the Ministry of Education.

Plan To Combat SGBV, Harmful Traditional Practices Disclosed

By: Roland Davis-0776107962

The Government of Liberia and the United Nations Joint Programming Initiative to Prevent and Response to issues Against Sexual and Gender Based Violence and Harmful Traditional Practices in Liberia have designed a five- year strategic plan to deal with such situations in Liberia.

The five- year strategic plan program will run from July 2015 to July 2020, according to organizers.

This plan was disclosed at a meeting held recently at the RLJ Hotel, outside Monrovia, organized by UN Women in Liberia, facilitated by the Liberian Government and other UN agencies.

The meeting was aimed at finding a way forward for the implementation of the program in Liberia for the next five years, organizers indicated.

Giving  an overview of the strategic plan during the meeting, one of the facilitators, Patricia Jallah Scott, said the  plan is a proposal designed by the government and UN agencies intended to help build around a community-based approach, supported by five strategic pillars to prevent, response to SGBV cases and the issue of harmful traditional practices, particularly for Liberian girls.

Madam Scott indicated that the strategic plan is to also provide basic approach to the prevention, response to   survivor needs, safety, and protection in education, institutional strengthening and visibility or mass mobilization campaign against SGBV and harmful traditional practices in the country.

She noted that the program will help in protecting Liberian girls, including school- going population of the country, but called on the general public to collectively support the implementation of the program.

Madam Scott said the strategic plan has also been designed through a developed approach in local and consultative approach, including community dialogues conducted in ten of the fifteen counties of the country.

She said this was intended as a means of ensuring that the SGBV joint program builds on community solutions, informed by a robust context specific analysis of needs, based on communities’ knowledge and existing protection strategies, as well as disaggregated understanding of the diverse threats and opportunities within Liberia.

Madam Scott also noted that the approach was also intended to provide legal or policy analysis as well as institutional reviews to identify legal and policy enablers and the institutional readiness and capacity; a mapping of actors as an opportunity to strengthen synergies and avoid overlaps and duplication.

Meanwhile, also at the meeting, the organizers disclosed an estimated amount of US$50m as budget to be used for the implementation of the program in five years.

The meeting brought together several organizations, including government agencies, civil society groups, traditional council, UNDP, local media entities, WHO, UN Women, UNHCR, UNMIL,  UNFPA, among others.

The project is also facilities by the Ministry of Gender and Development, The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Information Cultural, Affairs and Tourism and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.