Monrovia Ltd

I stayed in a garish hotel owned by Lebanese – there is much owned by the Lebanese, just like in neighboring Cote d’Ivoire. And so Lebanese food dominates most restaurant menus, which is fine – I like Lebanese food – ate it for two years back in the 70s. A very pricy Japanese restaurant in a neighboring hotel allowed for the occasional break; a more traditional popular restaurant next door offered local African foods from around the region, including Senegal’s famous cieboudien (rice with fish and vegetables).

The remainder of my time in Monrovia was a bit disappointing from a professional point of view. My counterpart was too busy, being pulled in this then that direction, to put me to use. I had asked for a plan but there never was one. And so I left Monrovia with my reports done and ticked a lot of to small to-do’s from my list. I could have done all of this at home. I was able to get his team’s attention for only one hour which I used as well as I could. I supported the Madagascar team and prepared for my trip to Cameroon, and then India in the first months of 2017.

We had one more meeting related to the retreat which allowed me to set foot in the hospital we had been discussing for 3 days. We toured it late in the afternoon, guided by an American Liberian, raised in the UK and US and with degrees from American universities. He had presented a slide show about what was going on, construction wise, during the retreat. And now I got to see it with my own eyes.

The hospital is a giant construction site – a few things are finished but most are not. It was built to UK standards in the late 60s and opened in 1971. It had suffered and withstood much since – aside from its use as a strategic point in the two civil wars (1989-2003), there was also the combined action of salt, wind and water that had steadily eroded the concrete pillars, roofs and walls. Aside from a realization of the immensity of the task to retrofit this place for modern medicine, one other thing stood out: I didn’t see any patients. Most African hospitals I have visited are busy in the morning and quiet in the afternoon, when the doctors work in their private clinics – but there are always patients. Not here.

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