The health of the 4.5 million people of Liberia is faced with uncertainty as President George Manneh Weah’s two hours-long Annual Message to the 54th National Legislature Monday, January 28, dedicated only a sentence to the country’s health sector.
How could have the President done this! Nearly all major hospitals across the country are virtually empty and services there have been reduced to providing prescription, including the G.W. Harley Memorial Hospital in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, Phebe Hospital in Suakoko, Bong County and the Charles Henry Rennie Hospital in Kakata, Margibi County, among others, which have been reduced to mere structures due to acute shortage of drugs.
In his entire address that lasted exactly two hours, President Weah only mentioned in passing as one of his successes for the first year in office, “sending medical doctors abroad to specialize; feasibility study of the 14th Military Hospital; upgrade of JFK.”
The President presented no comprehensive agenda for the health sector, but dwelled his speech of 83 pages on infrastructure, roads and construction of Bali Island, among others. As good as these programs are, if they are meant for the people, then their health should equally be treated as priority.
Being a father himself, has President Weah wondered what is the use of buying clothes, toys and everything for his children when they are in poor health, and lack physical strength to play or move around? But this is exactly the unfolding reality in Liberia.
This is no exaggeration; Liberians are dying in their numbers due to lack of basic drugs and essential equipment in our hospitals! Accessible and affordable health care has eluded the people for too long. One had thought this new administration would have made health a priority, not just building infrastructures.
We call on the new Minister of Health, Doctor Wilhelmina Jallah to draw up a comprehensive health strategy for the remaining five years of this administration, if she had not already done so, and bring it to the public.
Being a professional doctor herself, we challenge Minister Jallah to leave the administrative functions with her deputies and roll up her sleeves to tackle the technical challenges faced by the health sector, that have left major hospitals around the country without drugs.
Others may argue the government is beset by huge economic challenges, which is a reality. But we demand political will from those authorities concern, for we are also fully aware of enormous goodwill in the international community for this very important sector.
It is left with the Government of Liberia to take the drive by packaging a comprehensive national health program that would encompass the Resilient Health System evolved by the previous administration in delivering accessible health care to our people.