Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs,
Minister of Health, Dr Walter Gwenigale
Distinguished Members of the Government of Republic of Liberia,
Members of the Diplomatic Corp,
Heads of International Agencies,
Distinguished Invited Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is my pleasure to respond to the toast proposed by His Excellency, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Indeed the World Health Organization and the people of Liberia have enjoyed a long and rich history and I very much appreciate the positive remarks conveyed about our Organization in the statement by the honourable Foreign Minister. I am deeply honoured and extremely happy to have made this trip to Liberia and to spend a couple of days here learning about the tremendous progress this country has made to this Ebola epidemic and about your vision and plans for health in the future.
Indeed, I would like to thank Her Excellency President Johnson Sirleaf, and her team including Dr Walter Gwenigale and others for the visionary leadership and hands-on engagement in the response to Ebola epidemic which has brought the country on the verge of having this epidemic declared over. So I am very happy to have visited Liberia at this juncture and this moment when the prospects are very positive, although we are all determined to remain vigilant until we reach that target date when the epidemic can be declared closed.
I am extremely impressed by the determination of the government of the various actors and of the partners working with you to stay vigilant and stay engaged until that day has been reached. Indeed the people of Liberia have been through a very difficult and tragic time that has touched many families and many communities. We have been extremely impressed by the adaptability and determination of communities to confront this epidemic, to change their behaviours, to change deep-rooted traditions related to the way that people honour their dead and deal with the sick at home in order to reach this point in the epidemic. I think their response and their leadership is much to be admired and have taught us in WHO a lot.
I would also like to express our gratitude to all the partners for the resolute way you have supported the country to reach this point for your determination to stay on course with Liberia through the transition as the country works towards its recovery and is planning the future for resilient health care system.
I would like to assure you Minister and Your Excellency, of our commitment in WHO to walk every mile with you and to support you every step of the way in re-establishing a health system that is resilient and that can provide basic services to every Liberian citizen and able to resist the type of challenge faced through this epidemic.
I hope it is not a break in protocol if I say a few words with Dr Walter Gwenigale. I must say he has been distinguished in our governance meetings. I very much admired his ability to help us in the secretariat, sometimes urging his fellow ministers to get to the point so that decisions can be taken. So I really like to thank him for his leadership and help in the region which we very much appreciate. He assured me that he is going to go up into the sunset and become a farmer. I would like to wish him all the best in his farming endeavours. Dr Gwenigale - Best wishes for the future.
I am very confident that the collaboration between WHO and Liberia will only get better, only get stronger as we provide our support and help for the government to coordinate different partners in health to help you improve and strengthen your health system.
So it is my privilege now to propose a toast.
To Her Excellency, the President of the Republic of Liberia, to the Liberian people and to a speedy end to this Ebola epidemic, and let us have in the future a strong and resilient health system.
To the Liberian people and Her Excellency!