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Health services decline

-NPHIL boss alarms

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The Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) has alarmed over a serious decrease in provision of key health services as a result of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) here.

Dr. MosokaFallah, who spoke to the London School of Economics and Political Science via a video conference recently, noted that key health services such as immunization, treatment and testing have slowed since the pandemic hit Liberia in March, revealing that attendance rate at health facilities has dropped by 23 percent due to the virus.

“Patients are afraid to go to health facilities. Many of them have wrong notion that if they go to hospitals and present similar symptom like fever, they would be tested for covid-19 and be isolated from their families and friends; This has been one of the major problems in our health sector since the outbreak,” stated Dr. Fallah.

Providing statistical data on the health sector of Liberia amid covid-19, he said under-five treatment for malaria has dropped by 34 percent, while above five has dropped by 35 percent.

He indicated that due to the outbreak, 35 percent of children are not being immunized as compared to the same time last year. Dr. Fallah pointed out that 10 percent of those who need to be tested for HIV/AIDS to receive drugs are not receiving it due to the virus as well.

“Our health workforce is also another problem, because some of the workforce had to move to support the covid-19 response. The regular health workers are now asking for hazard pay because they are of greater risk of contracting the virus. But in the current response, there is no funding for hazard pay for regular health workers. The only hazard pay is for those who are directly involved in the response, hence, this is threatening our regular health services,” he lamented.

“In summary, low attendance and low service utilization are key issues. We need to do more work in risk communication, mask ownership, utilization and usage. We have been shifting the module from bottom to up approach by doing more community engagements,” the NPHIL boss added.

Commenting on the positives, he said Liberia has to a large extent done well within the West African subregion least to say the Mano River basin, by recording the lowest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. According to him, most of the successes scored in the fight against the virus can be credited to the lessons learned from the Ebola virus disease in 2014/2015.

“Ebola helped Liberia prepared for Covid-19 in many ways. As far back as January 22, we approached the President and let him know that the growing numbers of cases warranted enhanced airport screening. We established the Presidential Advisory Committee headed by the President and a technical committee headed by the Minister of National Defense,” Dr. Fallah explained.

“It helps us to build the infrastructures. Prior to Ebola, we did not have any structure in place for surveillance system. We did early warning and surveillance system and all of these were lessons we learned from Ebola.” Meanwhile, the NPHIL has been has been called upon by two international bodies to share his professional expertise.

In one of the invitations, Dr. MosokaFallah is being invited by the political leaders of North America and the Caribbean to provide advice on ‘contact tracing strategy for coronavirus’ in their regions (Latin America and the Caribbean) at a high-level expert advisory session on July 17.

“At the request of political leaders from Argentina, Ceará-Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Peru, the GovLab is convening a high-level expert advisory session to advise them on the development of their contact tracing strategies,” the communication read.

“This session will take place Friday, July 17, 10am-12pm Eastern Time (EDT) with the explicit goal of sharing concrete and specific solutions to the contact tracing challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. No prior knowledge of the region is required as these leaders are looking to benefit from the experience of global experts. The event is supported by the Inter-American Development Bank,” according to the invitation.

The communication furthered that the advisory session will specifically focus on helping these countries and states identify and implement concrete strategies for contact identification, contact listing and contact follow-up, as part of second in a series of six global online advisory discussions with diverse, international experts and innovators designed to identify innovative and practical ideas, tools, and strategies to support public leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean in the fight against Covid-19.

In a related development, the African Union (AU) has also invited Dr. Fallah to join the Africa COVID-19 Testing Alliance under the continent-wide strategy, the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT): Trace, Test and Track.

“As part of the launching phase, and based on your expertise leading the National Public Health Institute of Liberia’s response to COVID19, we would like to extend you an invitation to join the Alliance and co-create with us a working plan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa by catalyzing private-public partnerships. We are currently holding weekly calls every Monday at 12 PM ET / 6 PM CAT,” the AU communication, among others, detailed.

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