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People often ask me if I feel pressure as the first democratically elected female leader of an African nation. It’s a fair question, but the pressure I feel should be the same felt by all African leaders: to improve the lives of Africans.
I joined fellow African Heads of State in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, several weeks ago for the African Union Summit. High on our agenda was taking stock in the progress we’ve made, collectively and individually, in improving the health sector of our countries and addressing the challenges we still must overcome.
We’ve certainly come a long way from the devastating times when children frequently died of malaria. Today we are at a turning point for making historical gains in Liberia’s health sector – where no child dies of malaria and every mother living with HIV can give birth to HIV-negative children while living healthy lives themselves.
It would have been impossible to make these strides towards defeating these diseases without the international donor support of our partnership with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
While we still appeal for donor support to help push us past the tipping point of defeating these diseases, we also recognize the paramount need to increase investments in our own country’s health programs. For, at the end of the day, we must take responsibility for our own lives. Liberia has the potential to be a prosperous nation, but this will only be possible with a healthy population.
Nevertheless, I fully support the Global Fund’s request for $15 billion from donors for 2014-16, which is crucial for scaling up current health programs that are keeping hospital beds in malaria wards empty; preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS while keeping people still living with HIV alive and healthy; and effectively treating TB.
Defeating these pandemics may be an ambitious goal, but only by being ambitious can we achieve great things. Today I am President, but yesterday I was imprisoned and forced into exile. I will not allow my fellow compatriots to be held hostage to the diseases we have the science and strategy to defeat through effective partnerships with organizations such as the Global Fund.
Liberia is no longer a place of conflict and war; no longer the country our citizens fled, our international partners pitied and our neighbors feared. We are today a country determined to be free of the burden of preventable and treatable diseases and ready to meet our full potential in the family of nations.