Liberia: Bad Road Hampers Access to Tappita Hospital in Nimba County


Tapitta, Nimba County – Abraham Gaye, 43, laid flat on the ambulance bed of Tappita Hospital as nurses pronounced him dead on arrival to his daughter Theresa, who screamed uncontrollably.

Report by Bettie Johnson-Mbayo, [email protected]

Gaye had come from a three-to-four-hour drive town called Zuolay in Nimba after his family called the hospital when he collapsed in bed early morning hours.

The ambulance driver said they could not quickly get to the deceased because of very bad road conditions.

“This road no matter how slow your speed on it, you have to be careful because it will either damage the vehicle or contribute to the early demise of the patients before their arrival at the hospital.

“Like for this man, we went for him, when we reached he was alive. But here we are, he is dead. It is not anything strange many patients have died like him, this road is also killing patients, it has to be fixed.”

The ambulance driver said many at times the ambulance can get stuck in the mud and bikes are used in reaching patients to the hospital.

Jackson Fiah Doe Memorial Regional Hospital is the second largest referral hospital in the country that does all major and minor surgeries and diagnoses. Despite that, to road to Tappita, where the hospital is located in Nimba County, remains a major problem in accessing health care at that facility.

According to our reporter, who had just come back from that part of the country, while in en-route to Tappita over the weekend, she saw at least five trucks, three pickups, four buses, three smaller vehicles have been stuck in a thick red mud somewhere near Griae town.

For Oretha Neufville, her father and one-year-old daughter had to spend three days and nights on the road as the vehicle they were traveling in had stuck in the mud.  Ms. Neufville was taking her sick father down to Monrovia from Maryland County. He was expected to have an eye surgery done in Monrovia from a charity organization.

“I am carrying my Pa to Monrovia; he can’t see. My big sister said I should carry him for medical operation from a charity organization. Go to the vehicle, the pappy’s feet have swollen because we have been sleeping in the car for the last three days.”

She also spoke about how they had been out of food for those days and her skin was even itching her as they hadn’t showered, too, in those days. “My baby is also sleeping in the cold. I am afraid, she will get sick because nowhere to sleep, I am only breastfeeding her.”

“The first day we slept under a mosquito net in somebody house; on Wednesday, we slept on a market table. Thursday, we slept right here on the road and today we are here again. I don’t know if we will sleep here again.”

“From Maryland to Ganta is one day but now we are here and don’t even know what we are going to do,” she stated sadly.

She urged the Ministry of Public Works to give the road a facelift before it begins to rain heavily.

According to her, the fare from Maryland to Monrovia is not stable as it is between L$6000 and L$7,000.

Lucy Kobo, 63, live in Maryland and was to attend a funeral of her niece in Monrovia on last Saturday. She was unsure that she will attend after being stuck in the mud for 4 days at Griae town.

“Today is Friday, and I am still here in the mud, I am leaving Maryland to attend my sister’s daughter’s funeral that is scheduled for tomorrow and I am not sure if I will attend it because I started the journey since Tuesday.”

For Franklin Walker, who is a routine driver on the road and an agriculture produce commercial retailer, told this newspaper that he usually travel to La Côte d’Ivoire to buy cash crops, which he supplies companies and businesses.

Luckily for him, his car wasn’t stuck in the mud but could not pass through the bad spot as the number of cars stuck made it impossible for his car to attempt a pass.

He said that he had just passed through Griae on Sunday but upon his return from Côte d’Ivoire, he was not able to navigate the bad spot because of the number of vehicles stuck in the mud.

He was worried that his good he had bought from Côte d’Ivoire could get damaged.

Walker corroborated the ambulance driver’s story about bikes helping to ferry patients to the Tappita Hospital when the ambulance gets stuck in mud.

“This road is supposed to have asphalt because everybody now depends on this hospital as the second biggest referral hospital; people who come here are mostly from Southeastern Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea,” he stated.

“This place should have asphalt, though I know this is a pro-poor government, but no government is broke. These counties voted him, so it is time that he pays them with the road construction,” he noted.

Florence Fallah, an employee of China Henan International Cooperation Group (commonly known as CHICO) had returned from Monrovia and been on the road for over 8-hours.

“I went to visit my family in Monrovia because my son was sick and I asked my company for one week but now it is two weeks. I have called them, so I am sure they will understand.”

The Transport Ministry’s Southeast regional coordinator, T. Max Deah, noted that the road’s dilapidated condition is an early warning sign to the Government. Deah recommended that the Liberia National Police stations a traffic officer to control the vehicles and the Public works ministry upgrade and improve travelers’ condition.

The Acting CEO of the hospital, Dr. James Sobboh, recently speaking at a community media forum on the budget on health in Tappita, stated that the road leading up to the hospital is a serious challenge.

The media forum was organized by the Liberia Media Democracy Initiative with support from USAID.

“We are here; people tend to forget us. This hospital is here and is a national treasure and the best referral and tertiary hospital. The road condition is a challenge; if the government can pay attention to it, it will improve the system. Sometimes our trucks with drugs get stuck for three to four days and patients complained of no drugs, so we give them prescriptions to go and purchase their own drugs.”