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The Focus on Liberia’s Health Systems and Roads to Health Plan are not enough for Building a Culture of Disaster Resilience

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaAs part of the lessons learned from the deadly Ebola outbreak that exposed the weaknesses of our health care delivery system also due to bad roads condition, the attentions of the government and International community or partners in development now focus on two major recovery plans.

The first is the Ministry of Health’s $270 million plan to rebuild Liberia’s health system. According to Minister of Public Works Gyude Moore, with the help of Last Mile Health and Partners in Health, Liberia is hoping to build new health centers across the country and train 25,000 community health workers and 8,000 nurses, as well as doctors and specialists.

The second is the Ministry of Public Works’ “Roads to Health” plan intended to rehabilitate primary roads that will influence effective mobility of newly trained staff to new health centers in rural parts of Liberia.

These proactive priorities are important for building a culture of disaster resilience in Liberia but are not enough or comprehensive on grounds that the absence of the National Disaster Management Agency will create a serious gap that will be discussed after reviewing the meaning of disaster resilience.

According to the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005–2015 in which 168 governments including Liberiapledged to reduce the impact of disasters on their citizens, defined disaster resilience as a holistic process that involves identifying and doing what it takes to be prepared for, and be able to effectively respond to, disasters and other major events as well as restore the critical infrastructure and essential services necessary to return to normal or more likely an “improved normal. A holistic process creates a culture of disaster resilience that is proactive rather than reactive.

According to research, building or rehabilitating infrastructure is only part of what is needed for a culture of disaster resilience. This assertion explains the focus of rebuilding and strengthening Liberia’s health systems and rehabilitation of roads to health that are not enough to build a culture of disaster resilience. 

In order to build a culture of resilience, the Hyogo Framework for Action (2005–2015) that is complemented by the Africa Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction endorsed July 2004 by the African Union Assembly and ECOWAS Policy for Disaster Risk Reduction sanctioned in 2006, mandates national government to legislate Institutional frameworks for disaster risk reduction.

It might interest you to know that the first approach to building a culture of disaster resilience by national government is the enactment of an institution exclusively responsible for disaster management followed by National Platform and National Disaster Policy that navigates the focus of disaster resilience.

Given the significant of the National Disaster Management Agency as it relates to building the culture of disaster resilience, it is surprising to know that nothing is been said about this Institution. All the post Ebola recovery plansfocusmainly on rebuilding and strengthening Liberia’s health systems and rehabilitation of roads to facilitate effective health care deliveries throughout Liberia.

Arguably no society or nation can build a culture of disaster resilience in absence of National Disaster Policy and National Disaster Platform; all of which are part of the exclusive responsibilities of the Disaster Management Institution. This is where the significance of National Disaster Management Agency as it relates to building the culture of disaster resilience comes into play or can be seen.

The National Disaster Platform is intended to improve synergies so as to ensure coordinated and coherent actions of building the culture of disaster resilience across different but relevant sectors of government such as the Health Ministry, Internal Affairs, Finance Ministry and relevant non-governmental institutions such as Liberia National Red Cross Society, World Health Organization etc. In other words, the National Disaster Management Agency that initiates the National Disaster Platform has the responsibility to coordinate all of the coherent actions.

The emphasis for granting the autonomous status to the National Disaster Management Agency does not necessarily mean that the Agency will conquer all disasters, nor the consequences they will produce. Rather, it emphasizes a need to take a risk-based approach to manage them, to mitigate critical deficiencies when possible, and build new systems to levels that will provide the resilience.

Arguably, the rebuilding and strengthening Liberia’s health systems and rehabilitation of roads to healththough important, but cannot fully guarantee this task.  For this reason, 73 Countries as of 2011 have enacted National legislation on disaster risk management (page 22, Hyogo Framework Action Mid Term Review 2010-2011) as part their commitments to building a culture of disaster resilience. Unfortunately, the draft National Disaster Policy that calls for the establishment of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) submitted to Liberia National Legislature since 2012 continued to be in one of the committee rooms for revision.

Recently, our national legislature unanimously passed a law that granted autonomous status to the Center Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) significant to improving productivity, economic and food security in post conflict Liberia, so it must also see reason to do the same for the National Disaster Management Agency significant for building a culture of resilience and safety for disaster management or risk reduction in Liberia.

When pass into law, the NDMA according to the global best practices for disaster management will be a research Institution use knowledge, innovation, and education to build a culture of safety and resilience at all levels, Strengthen disaster preparedness for effective response at all levels, ensure disaster risk reduction as a national and a local priority and work with relevant government ministries and humanitarian organizations so as to be able to identify, assess, and monitor disaster risks  and enhance early warning. The rebuilding and strengthening Liberia’s health systems and rehabilitation of roads to facilitate effective health care deliveries throughout Liberia cannot fully carry on this task in absence of the NDMA.

By Ambrues M. Nebo

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