A survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and stakeholders in the health sector as well as partners reveals that as Liberia’s population of 4.2 million recovers from the consequences of a series of civil wars (1989-2003) and the devastating Ebola viral disease outbreak (2014-2015) that took away several thousand lives (including health care workers), Liberia is now presented with new challenges in responding to threat of increasing non-communicable diseases and injury (NCDI) burden.
The report says in spite of gains made in addressing maternal health and communicable diseases, the rapid rise in NCDIs imposes great strain on the health system.
According to the report, as a result of past disruptions, systems and processes supporting the various sectors of the society were severely weakened. Yet in the health sector, we are strengthening our systems, with indicators pointing to humble but progressive improvement of health care services.
The report notes that despite World Health Organization’s (WHO) reports that NCD’s account for the 71 percent of deaths worldwide, NCD and injuries were entirely left out of the Millennium Development Goals.
The 2015 Summit on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) held promise though, finally recognizing the NCDI burden as a major challenge for sustainable development in the 21st century and adopting NCDs as one of the key SDG targets to address in the ensuing fifteen years (2015-2030).
The report notes to achieve these targets, concerted efforts are needed with contribution of all disciplines and sectors nationally and support from civil society and global partners.
It indicates that with much work still ahead, the Liberian Ministry of Health (MOH) is taking significant steps to meet global NCDI goals. Under a newly established NCD Division, strategic instruments to guide and regulate Liberia’s national response to the disease burden are being developed.
The National NCD Policy and Strategic Plan (2016-2021) were launched, and additional guiding policies, such as a National Cancer Policy and Radiation Guidelines, are nearing completion.
The report also says clinical protocols are also being drafted, promising to offer needed guidance in provider’s clinical training and enhance the quality of care delivery in NCDI management.
As severe, chronic conditions, the Report stressed that NCDIs require significant investment by the patient, family, and society. Yet with 50.9 percent of Liberia’s population living in absolute poverty, as the 2016 Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) demonstrate, interventions are often financially out of reach of people.
The document says the MOH is proud to have constituted a group in partnership with the global Lancet Commission on Reframing NCDs and injuries for the poorest billion to highlight Liberia’s experience in responding to the rising global scourge of NCDIs.
Under the leadership of Doctor Fred Amegashie (MoH) and Doctor Jason Beste (PIH), the Liberia Communicable Disease and Injury (NCDI) has worked throughout 2017 to gather information to show the country’s NCD burden and intervention profile.
The Report indicates that, in 2016, NCDIs constituted an estimated 37.9 percent of Liberia’s total disease burden and 43.4 percent of all deaths, respectively.
“From our Commission’s findings, we see that increasing the percentage of our national health expenditure allocated to NCDs from the current 12 percent to 20 percent will reduce yearly premature deaths by 1,300 by the year 2030. As the Ministry of Health, we recognize the opportunity for action described in this report and are committed to do our part” the survey concludes.
--Editing by Jonathan Browne