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German doctor in Liberia receives top award

Julius Kanubah / cmDecember 31, 2013

Margret Gieraths-Nimene was recently awarded Germany's Order of Merit for her charity work during the 14-year civil war in Liberia.

Image: DW/J. Kanubah

German-born medical practitioner Margret Gieraths-Nimene runs a clinic in Paynesville, on the outskirts of Monrovia, which she set up with her late Liberian husband, Domo Nimene, who was also a doctor.

Commonly known as GERLIB, (the first three letters of Germany and Liberia combined), the clinic was launched, partly as a charity, to offer low-cost medical services to Liberians unable to afford the high cost of care elsewhere. The clinic was constructed with the help from the German Embassy and the couple's friends.

Gieraths-Nimene, now aged 62, has received the Order of Merit from Germany in recognition of her years of charity work in Liberia. She has spent nearly three decades in the West African nation including those difficult and precarious times when Liberia was mired in a brutal civil conflict.

An African lab technician looks through a microscope inside a laboratory.
GERLIB clinic offers free medical treatment and counselling to Liberia's under-privilegedImage: DW/J. Kanubah

"I am very delighted that I got this award," Gieraths-Nimene told DW. "It is a sign of appreciation from the people of Germany, and, of course, also from the embassy here in Monrovia," she said.

Pressing on in spite of civil war grief

Fourteen years of civil war took their toll on her family. Between 1989 and 1990, her husband was attacked by marauding rebel fighters. Some six years later that attack would contribute to his death. "After the attack, my late husband developed epilepsy and later on Alzheimers," she recalled. Domo Nimene died on January 28, 1998.

Despite this ordeal, Margret continued her charity work. Her GERLIB clinic has a staff of 24 and treats over 1,500 patients a month. "Sometimes we have two deliveries per day, especially in the night," the German medical practitioner noted.

GERLIB's laboratory technician Mohammeh Bah, a 27-year-old Liberian college graduate, has been working at the clinic for three years. "We do basic routine and other tests," Bah told DW, "but the major tests we do almost every day for all the patients are the malaria test and the typhoid test. We do blood transfusion service here as well," he said.

Female Liberian child soldier sitting in the back of a truck and holding an assault weapon.
Gieraths-Nimeme says she treated wounded rebels, including child soldiers, during the civil warImage: Getty Images

Patients treated with respect

Hannah Alex, who had brought her son in for treatment, said she was satisfied with the services offered at GERLIB. "They are giving him treatment, this facility is alright," she said.

Another patient, Betty Taylor, confided to DW "I came for pregnancy examination, I should be giving birth soon." She said the clinic treated patients with respect.

Gieraths-Nimene and her medical team offer curative and preventive care, laboratory analysis, HIV/AIDS counseling and treatment as well advice on other public health issues.

Margret spoke fondly of her native Germany saying she missed it. But with her medical charity work and the urge to continue living in Liberia, it was difficult to think about returning to her home country.