Abe pledges to support Liberia’s recovery from Ebola epidemic during meeting with president


Staff Writer

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged to support Ebola-hit Liberia as it recovers from the deadly epidemic during a summit with the country’s visiting President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Thursday.

“I told (the president) that Japan will boost cooperation with Liberia to provide assistance in the field of health and to rebuild its society and economy,” Abe said at a joint news conference with Sirleaf at his office in Tokyo on Thursday.

The Ebola outbreak in Liberia, discovered in March last year, claimed the lives of some 4,800 people and more than 10,660 were infected with the potentially deadly disease.

The World Health Organization declared the end of the outbreak in the West African country on May 9.

Tokyo will provide Liberia with technical assistance to rebuild health systems and food aid through the World Food Program, a joint statement noted.

Abe also said Tokyo will contribute to peace and stability in Liberia, which has been on the road to recovery after a brutal civil war.

Over the 14-year-long conflict, which ended in 2003, it is estimated that some 270,000 people were killed and about 790,000 displaced.

Sirleaf won the Liberian presidential election in 2005, becoming the first elected female head of state in Africa.

At the news conference, Sirleaf said the outbreak of Ebola had “devastating effects,” particularly on the country’s economy.

“We witnessed a sharp decline in our GDP,” she told reporters. “Our ability to continue our reconstruction work was interrupted by many who had to leave the country, understandably, out of fear of the disease.”

However, Japan’s assistance has enabled the country to get back to work on its reconstruction, Sirleaf said.

“That support given to us bilaterally as well as support through international agencies has enabled us to mount an effective resistance to the place where today we say we have the confidence that we are able, if ever there is another outbreak, to control this virus,” she said.

“We now can move back to resuming our work for the rebuilding of our country for ensuring that the services required by our people are delivered,” Sirleaf added.

Sirleaf made her fifth visit to Japan since taking office in 2006 to attend the World Assembly for Women in Tokyo, an international conference focusing on women, hosted by the Japanese government. She gave a keynote speech on Friday.

Promoting the status of women in society has been one of Abe’s high-priority issues since taking power in December 2012.

Sirleaf was awarded a Nobel Peace Price in 2011 for her contribution to peace-building and the empowerment of women. She won the prize jointly with Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee and Yemen’s Tawakel Karman.

Abe said the two leaders agreed to work toward a successful summit between Japan and the African nations, known as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development, to be held in Kenya next August. The next TICAD will be its sixth, and will be held in Africa for the first time.

On the international front, both leaders agreed to cooperate on a number of issues such as the reform of the U.N. Security Council, resolution of human rights violations by North Korea, including its abductions of Japanese nationals, and the sustainable use of marine resources, according to the joint statement.