Yokohama, Japan – Saturday, June 1, 2013) On the opening day of the 5th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD V), taking placed in Yokohama, Japan, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf engaged in a series of activities, including a meeting the President of the World Bank Group, Dr.Jim Yong Kim, and members of his team.
According to a dispatch from Yokohama, President Sirleaf also addressed a Side Event titled “Family Planning 2020 and CARMMA: Showcasing the Economic and Financial Returns of Investment in Maternal Health including Family Planning”; and made a follow-up visit to Dr. Tokuda Torao, founder of the Tokushukai Medical Corporation, a Japanese philanthropist and humanitarian, who is donating to Liberia a Dialysis Center, an Emergency Department, incubators and more.
The President also visited the TICAD V Africa Fair, with exhibits of African and Japanese products, including Liberian country cloth and crafts. Madam Sirleaf ended her activity-filled day by attending the Hideyo Noguchi Award Ceremony, at which the 2nd Hideyo Noguchi Africa Prize was awarded to Dr. Peter Piot of Belgium and Dr. Alex Godwin Coutinho of Uganda.
In her discussion with the World Bank President, Mrs. Sirleaf mentioned the Report of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, which she co-chaired, and which was presented to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on May 30. She suggested that the Bank study the elements concerning economic transformation, which are essential to transform African economies. Member States could now take the recommendations and break them down into their own country’s specificity.
Asked by Dr. Kim what the Bank could do to help Liberia, President Sirleaf reminded him that the Bank’s main area of support is infrastructure, particularly the power, road and ports sectors – all very critical to the new Agenda for Transformation. Progress was being made, although the pace was too slow, caused in part by unanticipated costs. For a post-conflict country seeking rapid reconstruction to be able to restore basic services, the same rules should not apply.
In the private sector, the President sought World Bank help in arranging public-private partnerships in the power sector, mentioning that an Indian company has proposed a 200MW facility, far above the 80 MW that Mount Coffee would produce. Liberia currently produces 21MW of power, at a rate of $0.54 per kilowatt hour – probably one of the highest in the world. This high cost is killing off small businesses, she said, and requested the Bank to look at the country’s entire power sector and advise on it. She also requested the Bank to send an assessment team to examine the capacity in the Ministry of Public Works where so many projects are delayed because reports have not been submitted on time, in order to improve upon our delivery.
For his part, Dr. Kim agreed that the way the World Bank works in conflict-affected and fragile States has to be different; that they should be treated as emergency situations, with quicker response. He had asked his team to come up with new ideas. There also needed to be greater incentives to attract staff to work in such countries. He said that the Bank would declare Liberia’s energy situation as an emergency, and would do everything possible to help increase the capacity.
Dr. Kim reminded President Sirleaf of the 17th Replenishment of the International Development Association (IDA). “You’ve been such a great champion for IDA in the past, and we will need your help again,” he said, in promoting the Bank as a one-stop-shop for meeting a country’s needs. President Sirleaf said she was happy to work with the Bank on its replenishment, and added, “We do it for you, it comes back to us.”
Addressing the event on maternal health and family planning, the President said that discussions at TICAD and at the AU Summit called for accelerating Africa’s economic growth. However, “unless we can improve upon maternal health and family planning interventions, we will not be able to achieve those targeted rates of growth”; that while much progress has been made in maternal and child healthcare, it is inadequate to enable countries to meet Millennium Development Goals targets 4 & 5.
Liberia is one of the countries with the highest maternal mortality rates, the President pointed out, and her government has been working, in strong partnerships with UNFPA and others,to reduce those numbers, and to expand family planning, given Liberia high 4 percent birth rate – well in excess of the country’s ability to plan for the education and health needs of this very young population. She informed the forum that the just-released report of the High-Level Panel on the post-2015 Development Agenda carries forward interventions on child mortality, maternal mortality, and working with UNFPA. Liberia continued to work within the framework of the African Common Position to ensure that it continues to make progress in these areas.
At the meeting with Dr. Tokuda, his Vice Chairman, Dr. Suzuki, informed President Sirleaf that before sending the dialysis machine to Liberia, a team would go to inspect the building where it would be housed. Maintenance was also essential. He said that the Group was also ready to accept doctors for two-year training in kidney transplants, and that it is ready to offer training in cardiology to any number of Liberian doctors at one of the best hospitals in Japan. President Sirleaf thanked Dr. Tokuda for all the support to Liberia.
Present during the visit were four Liberians who are completing three-week training programs at the Shonan Kamakura General Hospital. They are: Dr. Abraham Borkor, Head of the Department of Medicine at the J.F. Kennedy Medical Center; Nurses Bendu Mensah and Rita Peatan, who received training in human dialysis; and Mr. Timothy Johns, a Medical Engineer. Also on hand was Dr. Wvannie Mae Scott McDonald, Administrator of the JFK Medical Center.
Born in 1938, Dr. Tokuda graduated from Osaka University as a Surgeon in 1965. He opened the Tokuda Hospital in Osaka, in 1972, and this effort grew into the Tokushukai Medical Corporation which, despite his disability, he still chairs. Tokushukai is today the largest privately owned medical group in Japan, with 63 general hospitals, 59 specialized medical centers, 221 visiting nurse stations, 20 senior citizen health facilities, and 7 social welfare facilities. In collaboration with the African Bank for Development, Tokushukai has commenced the construction of hospitals in five African countries and established Dialysis Centers there. Ten years ago, Dr. Tokuda was struck by an illness that has left him paralyzed from the neck down. He communicates with his eyes through Japanese alphabets and his aides. He continues to run the Tokushukai Medical Corporation and to provide humanitarian assistance to people the world over.
In a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed last October, to improve healthcare in Liberia, the Medical Group pledged to establish a Dialysis Center at JFK, with state-of-the-art dialysis equipment; to train one doctor, two nurses, and a bio-medical engineer to handle the equipment; committed to set up an Emergency Department, with a modern Cardiac Center, and to train health personnel in this area; and favorably considered an appeal for incubators for premature births.