President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has told a UN delegation to Liberia headed by Switzerland’s former President, Ms. Micheline Calmy-Rey that the level of domestic and external finance Liberia received “did not demonstrate the concerns for a disease of global consequences in its imperative.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed the panel to exchange views with the Government and People of Liberia and the other two affected countries in the Ebola containment effort. Former Switzerland President MsCalmy-Rey, who headed the delegation here, told President Sirleaf that they had a mandate from the UN Secretary-General to prevent and manage future health crisis.
While here, she said the panel met with Liberian authorities, civil society groups, UN agencies, humanitarians, among others, and they were very keen to listening to President Sirleaf about the lessons learnt and to know what was the President’s assessment of the work of UN agencies, the world, and NGOs, among others.
The Liberian leader told the panel that the response that came from the external community was late, and it was fragmented because government was dealing with lot of NGOs and bilateral initiatives, noting that at some point, Liberia took over the coordination and decided to take charge with a team that proved much more effective.
“Yes, there was support, no doubt, but not at the level of the recognition of what was required to help us prevent it, improve our system,” she told the UN High Level Panel last week at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Monrovia.
Using the experience Liberia has, President Sirleaf says to build a system of prevention still has gaps, even though she recognized that trained community health response is a best way and there is a program for that.
She said Liberia was not sufficiently knowledgeable about dealing with Ebola, and had not anticipated the disease could have breakout here. But she told the panel of Liberia’s own allocation to the health sector to be able to have preventive infection control system and support of partners, though she admitted there was support from global health, among others.
The President said government has scored some successes in the health system in addressing child and maternal mortality, and noted that the country has suffered from certain diseases similar to Ebola like Malaria, chloral, laser fever, Typhore fever, among others.
She said as much as Liberia has the capacity to respond to normal health situations, the capacity of the institutions here were centralized and therefore “we did not reach” into periphery or local communities where the disease was very widespread due to lack of knowledge.
“So that tells us that we need to restructure our own health system in such a way that…, and of course our own experience about the role played by communities and the fact that they became not only the frontlines in attacking the disease, but the more effective ones for response,” she said.
President Sirleaf said she was pleased that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had appointed the panel to exchange views with the Government and people of Liberia in the Ebola containment effort. The head of delegation MsCalmy-Rey said the panel was thinking on four priorities, including finance, governance at the global, national and community levels and to be able to have real response system that functions.
She said the panel thought most about transparency, corruption and the idea of getting some level of trust between the donor community and the country in order to connect health crisis and development. MsCalmy-Rey further said Ebola was not a health crisis because it was far beyond health crisis, noting that the UN has the ambition to tackle the question of STDs and the way they can double up not only in the health systems of the affected countries, but also development.
She finally touched on the affordability and accessibility of medicines for the population. By Winston W. Parley -Editing by Jonathan Browne