President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has admitted that the Ebola virus disease was a wake-up call for Liberia that its healthcare system was weak and needed more attention including primary healthcare.
“Ebola exposed the deficiencies and weaknesses of our healthcare system. Strengthening primary healthcare with focus on controlling prevalent diseases like malaria, cholera is a critical priority along with the training of communities as first responders in containing outbreaks in the future; be it Ebola or other diseases unknown at present.
According to a dispatch from New York, President Sirleaf made these comments at a major side event on the margins of the UN General Assembly focused on “Securing a Healthy Future – Building Resilient Health Systems to Fight Epidemics and Ensure Healthy Lives” at the Westin New York Grand Central, Madison Ball Room on Saturday, September 26, 2015.
She joined several world leaders including United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Ghanaian President John Mahama, and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, among others.
President Sirleaf indicated that Liberia made particular progress in controlling maternal mortality, infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals which will now be replaced with the 2030 Global Agenda which contains 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 targets.
She reflected on the conflict that kept many things backwards including the healthcare system and assured that her government is committed to building a resilient healthcare system consistent with the country’s development agenda and the SDGs which have just be adopted by world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly.
Speaking earlier, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reflected on the Ebola crisis that hit Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, pronouncing that Liberia has defeated the virus while Guinea and Sierra Leone are reporting very few cases.
He praised President Sirleaf and other leaders for their decisive leadership in managing the Ebola crisis with local and international support. Mr. Ban indicated that the world must remain vigilant for future outbreaks and expressed gratefulness for the support received during the Ebola situation.
He said the work being done now by a panel he constituted on the global response to the healthcare system and is expected to make its report by the end of the year. “Though we may not know from when, where and at what time, the world must also expect new outbreaks of diseases and a strengthened healthcare system is key to confronting such anticipated outbreak. A clear roadmap with clear thematic priorities towards building resilient healthcare system is required,” he pointed out.
The UN Secretary General said it was a good thing that African leaders have advanced the creation of an African Center for Diseases Control and Prevention, noting that the launch of the SDGs is a reminder about the need to build strong healthcare systems in the world.
Also making interventions during special statements and panel discussion, Ghanaian President John Mahama, German Chancellor Merkel, World Health Organization’s Dr. Margaret Chan, Tanzanian President Kikwete, Norwegian Prime Minister Solberg, and Microsoft’s founder Bill Gates, among others defended the performance of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone and battling the Ebola virus diseases.
They argued that the state of the healthcare system was understandable due to decades of conflicts experienced by them compared with countries that have enjoyed stability for years. They pointed out that it was now time for the world to work with them to promote security and stability, as well as help develop a healthcare system that is resilient and works.
They also stressed the importance of data collection, the scrupulous implementation of the SDGs and the building of strong primary healthcare systems as key in securing a healthy future with resilient healthcare systems to fight epidemics and ensure healthy lives.
In a related development, President Sirleaf has told global stakeholders in the Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector that Water and Sanitation also play a very important role in delivering quality healthcare to mankind and urged concerted efforts in bringing needed relief to a huge number of global citizens who need such services.
“There are a lot of people who still don’t have access to WASH service across the world and this we must address. I am also glad that we pushed so hard for water, sanitation and hygiene to have a spot in the 2030 Global Agenda. They are well captured in goal six,” President Sirleaf said.
She told her audience that the importance of WASH was clearly seen in Liberia during the Ebola crisis; noting that the lack of proper WASH services helped spread the disease. “Reality hit home for sure during the Ebola crisis. Our schools couldn’t remain open because water and sanitation service were either poor or non-existent in many schools. WASH must therefore be an integral part of the rebuilding of our healthcare system because access to water and sanitation remains low in many parts of Africa,” the Liberian President said.
The side event on “Securing a Healthy Future”, sponsored by Germany, Ghana and Norway, was to enhance focus on building resilient healthcare systems; while the WASH was organized by Water Aid and Global Health Council that brought together key stakeholders in the Water and Sanitation sector aimed at accelerating global actions to address the challenges in the sector.-Press Release