Critical Condition: Liberia’s Hospitals Battle Deadly Shortages

 

A young woman lies in intensive care at Liberia’s Phebe Hospital.

Her mother comes running in with the drugs she needs, but the doctor shakes his head. It is too late.

“When patients come, we are obliged to send (family members) out to get drugs. Sometimes by the time they get back (the) patients are dead,” laments Dr. Jefferson Sibley, the hospital’s medical director.

“People are dying in front of our eyes, and we cannot do anything.”

Battered by years of civil war and then in 2014-16 by the worst Ebola epidemic in history, Liberia’s health sector is on its knees.

The crumbling infrastructure lacks almost everything — medicine, beds, equipment, ambulances, even a reliable electricity supply.

Phebe, in central Bong county, is the second largest hospital in Liberia, with 200 beds and seven doctors on its staff.

Despite chronic shortages, it still manages to treat at least 2,500 patients every month.

“We are supposed to get supplies from the ministry of health and the National Drug Services (NDS) but we haven’t received supplies for almost a year,” Sibley told AFP.

“We can’t do anything about it.”

Malaria was the cause of death of the woman in the intensive care unit.

She was 25.

‘Only the mercy of God’

According to the World Health Organization, total health expenditure per person per year is about $100 (87 euros) in Liberia, among the lowest in the world.

There is fewer than one regional or district hospital per 100,000 people in the country of about 4.7 million.

In 2010, accordiong to the latest available data, there were eight hospital beds per 10,000 people.

In Jenepeleta, a village 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the hospital in Phebe, Regina Kollie, 45, is trying to lower the fever of the youngest of her five children, a four-year-old girl.

Like many in the region, Regina sought help in traditional medicine and gathered leaves with which to wash her daughter, following the advice of a healer.

The treatment is not working and the child’s fever has raged for days. But going to the hospital is not an option.

“I don’t have the money to take my daughter to Phebe. The ambulance used to help us in these cases, but we don’t see it any more,” Regina says, weeping.

“The two ambulances we had are broken down,” Sibley confirmed, noting the vehicles had been “instrumental when it comes to saving lives”.

The ambulances “used to go for pregnant women, children and other people who are seriously ill in the villages… and bring them to us,” he said.

But now if there is an emergency case, “only the mercy of God can help.”

Surgery by storm lantern

“We have so many problems, but the key problem is that no funding is coming to the hospital,” said Sibley.

“We find ourselves indebted to vendors. People we take fuel from, people we take drugs from, all of them refuse to supply us because we owe them lots of money. The hospital owes $300,000 (265,000 euros) to vendors.”

The hospital’s electricity is frequently cut off, plunging it into darkness at night and forcing the lone surgeon to carry out operations by the light of storm lanterns.

A shortage of medicines is also crippling Liberia’s largest national health facility, the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia, says its medical director Jerry Brown.

“There are some drugs you can’t find in local pharmacies and government regulations prohibit us from procuring drugs currently from pharmaceutical companies outside the country,” the chief doctor told AFP.

“Our next source of drugs is the National Drug Services,” but it provides only enough to treat the most vulnerable, including children.

The hospital was negotiating with the ministries of health and finance for authorisation to buy directly from manufacturers, Brown said.

Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah said the problem stemmed from the previous government, under which hospitals ran up big debts by obtaining drugs and fuel on credit.

“We have inherited all these debts, and the vendors no longer want to give us credits,” she said. “We have to pay some of these debts so that we can open the credit lines.”

In a sign of progress, eight container-loads of drugs had arrived, and these will help to ease shortages, she said.

AFP

Those Who Say We Shouldn’t Borrow Must Find An Alternative – Fashola

Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, addresses journalists in Kwara.

 

The Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, has replied those criticising the Federal Government for borrowing funds.

Addressing reporters in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, he asked such people to provide an alternative to sourcing for funds.

“Those who say we shouldn’t borrow must have an alternative answer to where we will get the money. Those who don’t support borrowing, are they ready to support increased taxes?” he asked.

The minister blamed the slow pace of works on the federal road across the country on the paucity of funds.

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He went on to defend the decision of the government to borrow monies to fund its various projects in the country.

“Where do we get the money,?” Fashola queried. “It is not from President Muhammadu Buhari’s salary or the National Assembly’s salary; we are talking about quantifiable, substantial billions of naira that need to be spent to pay.”

The minister added, “That is how you move money around the economy because once you pay the contractors, they order sand, cement, iron rods.

“They don’t keep all those things. Where the money stops, supply stops.”

Fashola gave assurance that the government would continue to improve the economic wellbeing of the people through infrastructural development in the country.

Trump To Seek Another $8.6bn For Border Wall

US President Donald Trump/ AFP

 

US President Donald Trump is seeking $8.6 billion in fresh funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border, likely triggering another fight with Congress.

The 2020 budget request, which is set to be formally unveiled Monday, would far exceed the $5.7 billion Trump demanded last year.

That previous request led to an impasse that resulted in a 35-day partial shutdown of the US government, the longest ever.

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Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer decried the move, warning Trump that another legislative defeat would await him.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow conceded that the new request would likely mean a renewed fight in Congress over wall funding.

“I suppose there will be,” he told “Fox News Sunday.”

But Kudlow said Trump “is going to stay with his wall. He is going to stay with his border security. I think it’s essential.”

Separately, Kudlow expressed optimism that US economic growth will surpass three percent “in 2019 and beyond.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget said the president’s budget request seeks $2.7 trillion in cuts — “higher than any other administration in history.”

A statement by Acting Director Russ Vought said the cuts would be achieved through a five percent reduction in non-defense spending below the 2019 level, while more funds are being requested for areas like border security, defense, combating opioids and veterans care.

 ‘Expensive and ineffective’ 

With Democrats controlling the House of Representatives, Trump’s new wall-funding request appears to stand little chance.

In a joint statement, Pelosi and Schumer charged that Trump “hurt millions of Americans and caused widespread chaos when he recklessly shut down the government to try to get his expensive and ineffective wall.”

“Congress refused to fund his wall and he was forced to admit defeat and reopen the government. The same thing will repeat itself if he tries this again. We hope he learned his lesson,” they said.

The Washington Post reported that the president’s request for wall funding will come in the form of $5 billion from the Homeland Security Department and $3.6 billion from the Pentagon.

That would be on top of the $6.7 billion in wall funding that Trump has ordered redirected from other government programs under a national emergency he declared last month.

He declared the emergency after Congress approved only $1.375 billion for construction of 55 miles (90 kilometers) of barriers along the border in Texas.

The emergency declaration was roundly criticized by Democrats, joined by a handful of Republicans, who said it represented a possibly unconstitutional overreach of presidential authority.

 Senate vote on emergency 

Some Republicans expressed fear that Trump could be setting a precedent that a future Democratic president might cite to pursue a pet project opposed by Congress.

The Democratic-controlled House voted last month by 245-to-182 to nullify Trump’s emergency declaration.

The Senate, narrowly controlled by Republicans, is to vote on the same resolution this week. At least four members of Trump’s party have said they plan — despite pressure from Republican leaders and the White House — to join Democrats in opposing the declaration.

That would provide a majority for overturning the declaration, and Trump would then be expected to veto the bill, his first use of presidential veto power.

“He’s going to veto this,” John Barrasso, the third-ranking Senate Republican, told Fox News, “and then his veto will be sustained. They will not be able to override the veto.”

Overriding a presidential veto requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress.

AFP

Forfeiture Of Funds: Court Fixes Date To Hear Patience Jonathan’s Appeal

Patience Jonathan, Court, EFCC
Patience Jonathan

 

The Court of Appeal in Lagos has fixed November 3 to hear the appeal filed by Mrs Patience Jonathan, seeking to stop the permanent forfeiture of $5.7 million to the Federal Government.

The appeal arose from an order obtained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on April 26, from a Federal High Court in Lagos, temporarily forfeiting the funds to the government.

The EFCC had told Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, who gave the order, that the funds were suspected to be proceeds of unlawful activities.

READ MORE: Judge Withdraws From Patience Jonathan’s $5.9m Suit

The judge had also ordered the temporary forfeiture of the sum of N2,421,953,522.78 found in an Ecobank Nigeria Ltd account numbered 2022000760 in the name of “La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited”, which the EFCC said was linked to the former first lady.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, Mrs Jonathan filed an appeal against the ruling, asking that the order be vacated.

On July 12, proceedings, however, were stalled as one of the judges of a three-man panel of the Appellate Court said he was recusing himself from hearing the appeal for what he said were personal reasons.

Justice John Ikyeh, who presided over the appeal alongside Justices Abimbola Obaseki-Adejumo and Abrahim Georgewill, had noted that three judges were required to form a quorum but did not say which of the justices was withdrawing.

Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, then urged the court to consider hearing the appeal as early as possible, preferably during the annual court vacation.

At the resumed hearing of the matter today (Monday), the Appellate Court granted a prayer by Mrs Jonathan, seeking to amend her notice of appeal and file additional grounds of appeal.

The court also directed lawyer representing La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited, Mr Mike Ozekhome, to file a separate notice of appeal for his client within 48 hours.

The order was sequel to the striking out of the name of La Wari Furniture and Baths Limited from the main appeal filed by Mrs Jonathan.

The court had earlier granted leave to the company to appeal against the decision of the lower court.

Federal Government Pledges To Clear Pension Arrears

Federal Government Pledges To Clear Pension ArrearsNigeria’s Minister of Budget and National Planning, Senator Udo Udoma, says the government is committed to ensuring that every pensioner is paid their entitlement.

The minister gave this assurance while appearing before the House of Representatives accompanied by the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun and other heads of agencies in the country’s pension sector.

The ministers said salaries and pensions are the government’s number one priority, adding that the administration would look for creative ways to raise the funds needed to settle the arrears.

Adeosun, who touched on some of the steps taken so far, noted that the sum of 42 billion Naira to clear all the arrears. “Everything that has been appropriated up to date has now been paid,” she said.

The National President of the Nigerian Union of Pensioners, Abel Afolayan, on his part, expressed appreciation over the efforts of the Federal Government.

The ministers are expected to complete their work on the total figures needed to pay the pension arrears as soon as possible after which they would work with the National Assembly to ensure that the 2017 budget captures the figures.

PDP Accuses Fashola Of Stealing Lagos Funds

Gov FasholaThe Lagos State Chapter of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is accusing Governor Fashola and the All Progressives Congress (APC) of stealing Lagos Funds to prosecute election in Ekiti State, calling on relevant anti-corruption Agencies to commence necessary probe and arrests.

The party on Wednesday stated that it was hinted by reliable source within the council, especially in the council’s where the chairmen opted to be honest and trust worthy. The source said that the “councils are particularly averse to the move because they are indeed already cash strapped by the incessant demands by the Governor”.

The PDP claimed that the Governor compelled the 57 Councils in the State to contribute 25 Million Naira each, from their May, 2014 Federal allocations or borrow from Banks in order to support the Governorship re-election of Kayode Fayemi in the Ekiti Governorship election that will commence on Saturday, 21 June.

The party further claimed that “the sum of 1.425 Billion Naira is expected from the 57 Councils and a large chunk of it has been transferred into the personal account of Governor Fayemi, using a new generation Bank Network”.

The spokesman for the party, Taofik Gani, said the party could prove that Governor Fashola had raised over five billion Naira for the Ekiti governorship election with much of the monies directly stolen from the State and Local Councils Treasury, This is notwithstanding other logistics mobilised to be deployed from Lagos State to support Governor Fayemi in Ekiti State.

Further explaining, he said: “We are concrete sure of our facts that 25 Million Naira has been contributed by each of the 57 Councils in Lagos State to support Governor Fayemi’s wishful re-election.

“Fashola has again confirmed beyond any doubt that he is indeed a corrupt Governor. We also wonder why similar directive to contribute monies is not deployed to subsidise the astronomical increment in the LASU tuition Fees which has led to protracted strike and protests in the State. We call on anti-corruption agencies to immediately get to the root”.