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October 28, 2014

Supporting Our Friends in Liberia

I was last in Liberia this past June with my son visiting our partners and grantees, checking on progress and helping them think through next steps. The Ebola outbreak was still small and mostly rural. My conversations focused mainly on Liberia’s future – the potential for Liberia’s abundant natural resources to both fund the government and bring benefits to local communities, as well as the ways in which Liberian entrepreneurs were helping to grow the economy. It’s shocking to think how drastically things have changed in just a few months.

Our thoughts are with our Liberian colleagues and friends as they confront this terrifying epidemic. Their commitment, their dedication and, most of all, their courage inspire us. Just as Humanity United was there before the outbreak, so too will we remain after to help this resilient country rebuild.

Since 2007, Humanity United has made over $12 million worth of grants to support Liberian civil society organizations, INGOs working in Liberia, and the Liberian government. Over that time, we have funded groups working on a wide range of issues, including access to justice, capacity building support for civil society, conflict early warning, economic development and natural resource management.

In response to the current crisis, we have supported organizations like Direct Relief International, Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières) and Last Mile Health, who are delivering desperately needed supplies and working on the front lines to treat those who are ill. We have also provided support to the Monrovia-based Conflict Early Warning Working Group, which is using its extensive local network to disseminate public health messages. Additionally, the Omidyar family has made personal pledges to the Ebola Crisis Fund and Doctors Without Borders.

Many of our other long-standing local partners – including iLab Liberia and Building Markets – are also working around the clock to help to address the disease.

At a time when so many organizations and individuals are providing support for this crisis, we have started to look ahead to think about how we can best support Liberians in the aftermath of this devastating outbreak. In addition to the immense human suffering, the economic toll of the disease is also significant. The World Bank estimates that the Ebola outbreak could cost the Liberian economy up to $234 million next year – an amount equivalent to 12% of its GDP.

We are positioned to help. Through our partnership with Virgin Unite and SPARK, we will continue to provide training and support to Liberian entrepreneurs. Through the Concessions Working Group, we will continue to help civil society organizations ensure that concessionaires honor their agreements and provide the promised benefits to local communities. And, we are considering a number of other ways to assist with the recovery.

Liberia is a country with tremendous promise. As Pam Omidyar and I wrote to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last week, we remain friends of Liberia. We are strongly committed to both addressing this crisis now and to supporting Liberia on its path to recovery in the future.

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