One rewarding point emphasized by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf when she recently hosted a visiting United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) on the Global Response to Health Crises in Monrovia was the issue of the community’s role in any national undertaking.
President Sirleaf informed the UN Delegation that community ownership and effective mobilization emerged as the fulcrum of Liberia’s unique experience in dealing squarely with an unknown enemy – the deadly Ebola Virus Disease, praising the vibrancy of the community, as well as the overall leadership and technical expertise the Incident Management System or IMS which culminated into improved coordination in the collective fight against the Ebola outbreak.
She, however, underscored the urgency to train health care workers who would serve as ‘first responders’ not necessarily in the event of an outbreak, but with the capacity to provide health care for preventable and treatable cases at the community level.
In view of the foregoing, the Liberian President emphasized the urgent need for partnership to build viable response mechanisms at the community level, train health care workers that would be available to professionally manage mainly rural health facilities and provide quality service delivery to the people, indicating that although some gains have been in the areas of reducing infant mortality and other infectious diseases such as TB, the Ebola outbreak revealed critical gaps that must be urgently addressed.
And this is really the point at which we absolutely concur with Madam President.
While ignorance, denial and other factors may have characterized our initial engagement with Ebola leading to the rapid spread of the disease, the national and international technical expertise and community-driven approach employed in the battle against the outbreak that got us at the current point of relief in Liberia, is an experience from which we – as a government, people and partners – must always follow in our fight against other diseases.
We are of the fervent belief that by now, the critical gaps, including the weaknesses in our health system, exposed by the Ebola outbreak as mentioned to the UN Delegate by President Sirleaf, recently in Monrovia, are practically being handled in collaboration with our country’s international partners so that we will not be “caught with our pants down again”.
We can only urge the United Nations High Level Panel (HLP) on the Global Response to Health Crises to consider the case of Liberia as placed before them by the Liberian President as a very serious challenge that must be urgently addressed not only in our country, but those of our neighbours – Guinea and Sierra Leone, still struggling to eliminate the deadly Ebola Virus Disease.
Additionally, we do anticipate that whatever will be done at all levels of our society, including the various communities across the country to restore the viability of our health sector, will be in consonance with commitment and sincerity for practical impacts.
As far as we are concerned, the President was on top of the issues regarding the revival of the health sector in Liberia, with the visiting delegation of the United Nations High Level Panel or HLP on the Global Response to Health Crises established by UN Secretary General in April 2015.