Foreign assistance in post-conflict Liberia

25 Jun

As other African countries were reducing child mortality, Liberia regressed. More than one in 10 children die before their fifth birthday — a tithe to savage gods of war and disease…

The death of a child is an assault on the idea of moral order. If this is not a crime and a blasphemy, there are no such things. Yet 7.5 million children under 5 die each year worldwide, 6 million of them from preventable diseases.

In this case, what is unnatural is largely unnecessary…

The causes of child mortality are not mysteries. Two of the largest killers of children are pneumonia caused by pneumococcal disease and diarrhea caused by rotavirus — conditions preventable by existing vaccines…

Combine these approaches in various configurations, and you get the results measured in Senegal, Kenya or Rwanda — reductions in child mortality that are running at more than 8 percent a year. These are some of the swiftest gains in the history of public health, but they need to be duplicated in Nigeria, Pakistan, India, Ethiopia and the Congo…

The task is hardest in post-conflict countries, where the health infrastructure has been decimated. Liberia is simultaneously attempting to distribute drugs, hire nurses and doctors, and reconstruct ruined facilities. Yet the entire national budget is about half that of the D.C. public school system…

That is from this Washington Post article by Michael Gerson, who argues that given the development of stable democratic institutions in Liberia and the clear necessity of greater funding for health care, the US has a moral obligation to provide greater foreign assistance.

Its hard to disagree. However, it is possible that an influx of new foreign aid dollars into a post-conflict Liberia can destabilize the formation of democratic institutions by providing incentives for corruption/rent-seeking within the new govt? In other words, is the a danger that foreign aid can destabilize? (N.B. I have no reason to think this would be the case.)

H/T Nina.

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