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Senate pressurized to pass Public Health Bill 

By: Emmanuel wise Jipoh 

The Liberian Senate has come under serious pressure to pass into law, the Revised Public Health Bill Number 23.

The campaign comes amid calls for an improved public health delivery system to address numerous health challenges confronting the country.

Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) here and Health Association of Liberia are jointly asking the Senate to concur with the House of Representatives on the passage of the Revised Public Health Bill #23.

More than 20 CSO heads, women groups, university regulatory bodies, the Ministry of Health, and Health Association Leadership are calling on the Senate Committee on Health and Judiciary to urgently prevail on the entire Senate to concur with the House in enacting the revised public health bill into law. 

The appeal is part of a joint resolution that is a crucial component of an ongoing project titled: “Advancing a Framework for Public Health Delivery in Liberia”, an intervention being implemented by Sister AID Liberia with support from Kvinna till Kvinna Liberia.

Addressing a news conference over the weekend, Project Focus Person, Madam Patricia Gaye, said the need for the Senate to concur with the House on the passage of this instrument is crucial to achieving a service delivery health system. 

She stressed that the unified call is grounded in the clarion cry from the public for improved public health delivery systems in Liberia.

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In February 2020, President George Weah submitted the Revised Health Bill to the Legislature, which among others, seeks to address current and future challenges as well as integrate the separate laws governing the public health system. 

The Plenary of the House of Representatives passed the bill on July 21, 2022, on the recommendation of the joint committee on Health and Judiciary, and forwarded it to the Senate for concurrence. 

Madam Gaye noted with disdain that since the Bill was forwarded to the Senate, the Joint Committee on Health and Judiciary has not taken action toward the passage of the instrument, adding that the urgency for its passage into law cannot be overemphasized.

She told reporters the Revised Public Health Law will play a crucial role in addressing the many public health challenges in Liberia and cover several crucial needs including; nuisances, mental health, leprosy, drug peddling, nutrition, and non-communicable diseases. 

According to her, she is convinced that when pass into law, it will also help solve challenges faced with referral systems in hospitals, clinical trials, sexual reproductive health, and discrimination in providing healthcare services.

The Public Health Law of Liberia (Title 33) was first enacted as “The Public Health and Safety Law” before 1950. In 1956, it was amended and re-enacted as Title 31 of the Liberian Code of Laws. Subsequently, the Law was revised and re-enacted in 1976 as the “Public Health Laws (Title 33, Liberian Code of Laws Revised).

The CSOs believe that the Public Health Law which has been in existence for over four decades does not address new and emerging public health challenges such as emergency treatment, discrimination, mental health, failure to regulate nutrition, reproductive health rights, and marketing of products for infants and children.

Madam Gaye lamented that the draft instrument highly risks future delay if it is not passed into law before the current sitting of the Senate ends in June 2023, which she said, is not a good sign for the health system in Liberia.

“We are afraid that if the Senate’s Committee on Health and Judiciary fails to act in time until this current sitting comes to an end in June, the Bill will suffer serious setbacks. This is totally not what we want for our health sector.

We believed that the amendment of the law is crucial to meet the current realities in the health system; that is why it is important for the senate to act immediately”. She emphasized.

Meanwhile, the CSO heads, women groups, and health association leaderships are calling on the Senate Committee on Health and Judiciary to urgently facilitate the speedy attainment of the Senate’s concurrence, and solicit the support of the President, and the involvement of all political, and public and private actors to join them in this campaign.

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