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Ministry of Health pays tribute to former Minister of Health

(May 12, 2022, Congo Town, Liberia)—Health workers across the Country were seen pouring fond words on former Health Minister Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, who died at the John F. Kennedy Medical Center following a protracted period of illness.

The health workers said the late Dr. Gwenigale would forever be remembered for his incredible contribution to a health reform process that positioned the country’s system among the best in the Sub-region.

The health workers made the remarks Thursday, May 12, 2022, when an array of local and international partners as well as staff of the Ministry received the body of the late Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale at the Ministry’s compound in Congo Town.

At the emotionally charged ceremony, Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Health, Hon. Norwu G. Howard, who paid tributes on behalf of the Ministry, prayed and asked God Almighty to embrace the fallen Minister with tender love and grant him eternal life saying, “In your hands, oh Lord, we humbly entrust our father Dr. G”.

Minister Howard said the late Dr. Gwenigale served like a father to her when her late father was killed during the Liberian civil war: “Dr. G, you will forever remain in our hearts for the care you showed after the death of our late father”.

However, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, who was affectionally called “Dr. G”, was a national icon, an experienced teacher, a wonderful mentor, recognized surgeon, a supportive health czar, a distinguished public servant, a pillar of integrity, a committed and dedicated public health physician.

Still, many health workers couldn’t hold back their emotions for his immense legacy as former Minister of Health and one of the longest serving cabinet ministers of the Republic of Liberia.

“There was no one better to lead the Ministry and rebuild the health sector following the Liberian civil crisis. He always worked with the best interest of the country in mind, and the health system he shaped continue to reflect the values he championed,” Dr. Peter Coleman, former Minister of Health asserted.

“Many have spoken about his championship but for us from the county health services, we are committing this little amount as contribution to his foundation”, Dr. Yatta Wapoe, County Health Officer of Montserrado County, committed on behalf of her colleagues who were in attendance.

“Man of integrity, honesty and sense of humor, I learned several things from you”, S. Tornorlah Varplah, heaped eulogy.

“I can record, Man of Integrity, when you asked me to come back home to server our country. I had no other option but to leave my WHO’s job and come back home to serve,” FARA Manager, Mrs. Louise Thomas Marpleh, remarked.

As Minister, Dr. G was a committed advocate for Liberians and indeed all Africans. He served as a member of the World Health Organization’s Executive Board, and during that tenure, he led the movement for the Director General to be an African. He was committed to equity, and fought to ensure that the institution’s leadership reflected the geographic and economic diversity of the constituent regions. His passion and strategic advocacy contributed to the improved representation we see today. He contributed to a number of transformative initiatives, most notably serving as a Board member for the Roll Back Malaria campaign.

At home, he was a visionary leader with ambitious goals for the country. He would often say that “if you do not know where you are going, anybody can carry you anywhere”. With this guiding philosophy, he led the development of the first post war National Health Policy and Plan, as well as the Basic Package of Health Services. This was the first time that Liberia had a comprehensive, documented roadmap for the provision of health services.

Giving all of these initiatives undertaken and his mentorship even his immediate Deputies wouldn’t hold back their tears: “Dr. G was a man of integrity; he made me to know that you don’t have to follow the political trend to keep your job. The reason while people build systems is to live after them.

“Dr. G helped to build the financial management system at this Ministry. He made me to know that people can set you up if you don’t have a good system setup. He gave people the opportunity and chance to work freely; he was always instrumental to training health workers and other staff.

“I want this to be a lesson to all here, and I think it can carry his vision, he helped to build the financial—which is a system that we all have confident in, and that along made me to be bold; because when I was leading as the Minister here, I was not afraid to tell people to come and audit us.

“People need to know this at all times that audit is a system strengthening activity because fraud is a bad product, and so when an audit is done, the auditors give you recommendations to help you strengthen the system; when there is fraud you, take appropriate actions. And that’s how people fight corruption, and this was what Dr. G stood for throughout his life”, Dr. Bernice T. Dahn, former Minister of Health expressed.  

 “Dr. G Fought a good fight, and he played his part and his departure has come. He was not afraid to help built Liberia’s health system, to a point that he ensured the right staff do the right job.

“I am told that he was a team player and so whenever he’s invited to the capital building to speak on the Ministry of Health’s matter, he carred along with his three principle deputy ministers; so that when questions are asked on administration you are responsible, when questions are asked on policy and planning the next person in line will be able to answer—he did not behave like he knew all.

“Dr. G has fought a good fight, and he has finished his battle. What does it mean to fight a goof fight? The word fight means to content in battle thereby putting forth a determine efforts.

“It is important to note that every one of us here are fighting some battles, we are fighting battle to succeed, make progress in life we are fighting a battle to get ahead and it is unfortunate however, that the kind of battle we are fighting is being divided into two, a “bad fight and a good fight” Paul said

“There are lot of us that are fighting, a bad fight is the one that you fight that leads to someone’s’ death,Rev. Ernest Wesseh Davis Remarks said while delivering a sermon. 

Following the grief-laden ceremony at the Ministry, where throngs of local and international partners, including Last Mile Health (LMH), Partners In Health (PIH), DFID, USAID, UN Bodies, World Bank (WB) European Union (EU) US CDC and Irish Aid; Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons (LCPS), Pharmacy Board, Liberia Board of Nursing and Midwifery (LBNM) & Liberian Medical Dental Council (LMDC) congregated, the body of the fallen Minister was taken to the St Peter Lutheran Church, 13th Sinkor, Monrovia, for celebration of his life service.

Signed: _________________________________

           Felecia Gbesioh

           Director of Communications

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