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Liberian President Calls for Public Health Emergency to Combat KUSH Epidemic

Liberia's president-elect Joseph Boakai attends his swearing-in ceremony in Monrovia on January 22, 2024.
Photo credit: © Carielle Doe, Reuters

In a decisive move, the President of Liberia, H.E. Joseph Nyuma Boakai, has urgently called for a public health emergency to tackle the escalating KUSH epidemic within the country.


In recent months, there has been a disturbing surge in the use of KUSH—a substance rolled up and smoked like a cigarette—particularly among the youth populations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. KUSH has rapidly become the most prevalent substance in the region.


While the full extent of the issue remains uncertain, there is undeniable evidence pointing to an unprecedented rise in the proliferation and consumption of various harmful and addictive substances.


Addressing the nation, President Boakai emphasised that the KUSH epidemic poses an existential threat, eroding the future prospects of the nation's youth. “We must stand up and face this national security risk together” – he said.


Recognising the urgency of the KUSH epidemic, the President pledged immediate action by declaring a public health emergency. To spearhead the efforts, he established a multisectoral steering committee composed of key agencies:


  • Ministry of Health – Chair

  • Ministry of Justice – Co-Chair

  • Ministry of Youth and Sports - Member

  • Ministry of Gender, Children, and Social Protection - Member

  • Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA) – Member

  • Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) – Member


President Boakai further outlined his government's commitment to prioritise health and sanitation, with specific focus on:


  • Ensuring the availability of essential medical supplies and logistics in all public health institutions across Liberia.

  • Implementing regular, efficient, and robust monitoring and evaluation of health services to accelerate the reduction of Maternal and Newborn Mortality.

  • Establishing regional diagnostic centres.

  • Regulating healthcare and pharmaceutical institutions to meet international standards.


This comprehensive approach underscores the seriousness with which the Liberian government would want to address the KUSH epidemic, aiming to safeguard the well-being of its citizens and secure a healthier future for the nation.



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