Civil Society Challenged to Devise Post-Ebola Roadmap

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The Dean of the A.M. Dogliotti Medical College of the University of Liberia, Dr. Vuyu Golakai, has challenged civil society groups under the Liberia Civil Society Organizations Ebola Response Task Force to develop a national plan for post-Ebola recovery and future emergencies.

Drawing attention to the urgent need for a national health strategy following the worst Ebola crisis in history, Dr. Golakai warned that if there is no policy formulation to get knowledgeable people such as “Think Tanks” to prevent a further outbreak, only the ordinary people, who are not in government or do not have access to resources will die in large numbers.

Without mentioning President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s State of the Nation Address, which did not outline a definite plan for a post-Ebola health system, Dr. Golakai declared that despite the catastrophe, Liberians have faced during the last 10 months, they have not learnt any lessons and they have no roadmap to follow.

He named knowledge gap, unpreparedness and lack of policy formulation as three failings that will make Liberians pay the price of not taking tangible actions to address them.

Dr. Golakai, whose proposal for the formulation of a national health road map was well received by participants of the civil society forum on Ebola at a local hotel in Monrovia last weekend warned that Ebola, which is reported to be mutating, means that the disease is doing so only to adapt to the environment.

Although he claimed not to be a politician, Dr. Golakai fearlessly stated to the gathering that the government had failed and he therefore challenged anyone to come forward with a logical plan of what Liberia’s future health system should be and what Liberians must do to achieve it.

Setting a classical example of Liberia’s vulnerability to another outbreak, Dr. Golakai said the country has too many porous borders, particularly with Guinea and Sierra Leone that people are using to move in and out.

La Côte d’Ivoire, Dr. Golakai said, is much more secured because that government’s action to close its borders with Liberia paid off.  It didn’t record a single case of Ebola despite it sharing borders with Liberia.

The Liberia Civil Society Organizations Ebola Response Task Force is sponsored by IREX, USAID, OSIWA, IBIS and Actionaid, and has three key areas of work.

It deals with public health, information technology and advocacy. 

Public health personnel and media monitoring groups both presented several key issues associated with the Ebola crisis in Liberia during the policy dialogue.

In her presentation, Public Health Director Joyce Jarwolo told the gathering that in their assessment in five counties, Montserrado, Nimba, Bong, Margibi and Lofa, they realized that primary health care was abandoned during the Ebola epidemic.

Health workers became afraid when they realized that their co-workers were dying from the virus caused many to flee their jobs.

Ms. Jarwolo noted that health workers’ fear of contracting the deadly virus was linked to the limited supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other anti-Ebola supplies for their use.

The report, which did not include hospital facilities but only covered clinics that cater to primary health care, noted that almost all the facilities visited had hand washing buckets and some quantities of chlorine.

The Public Health Director also said some facilities lacked power because most of their generators and solar panels were dysfunctional.

The public health assessment covered the period between August and November of 2014.

Attorney Lamii Kpargoi, Director of the Liberia Media Center (LMC), whose group tracked resources provided for the fight against Ebola, said stakeholders that received money from donors and government are yet to give account of what they receive and how they spent it.

He disclosed that about US$373 million was committed to the Ebola fight of which US$244 million has been disbursed so far.

The Ebola Trust Fund set up by the government received US$14 million, with the highest contribution from national government and the rest from the African Development Bank and other NGOs.

According to Kpargoi, Margibi, Bong, Grand Gedeh and Gbarpolu counties are listed by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) to have received payments, but accounts of these payments remain inconsistent and not understood as far as his group’s inquiry is concerned.

For example, he said it is reflected on MFDP’s payment list that Bong County received US$250,000 of the trust fund, but the Superintendent said only US$150,000 was received.

Attorney Kpargoi said his group has asked the other county officials to provide information about how much they received, but those superintendents have remained tight-lipped.

Meanwhile, Assistant Minister for Preventive Services at the Ministry of Health & Social Welfare, Tolbert Nyensuah has described the role of the Liberia Civil Society Organizations Ebola Response Task Force as meaningful to the Ebola fight.

Minister Nyensuah in response to a presentation on public health said it was a good idea for civil society to hold government accountable for providing the needed services to its people.

He disclosed that for the past days there has been no report of new cases of Ebola and for 14 days there were no new cases reported in Grand Cape Mount County.

Tremendous progress has been made by all Liberians, he declared, noting that it was not because of medical applications but due to compliance with hygienic and preventive measures.

He urged Liberians to continue adhering to the preventive measures, assuring that all schools in the country will receive preventive materials before school opens.

The country officer of Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Massa Crayton, alluding to the advice earlier provided by Dr. Golakai, cautioned civil society organizations to attach seriousness to planning for the future so as to prevent a recurrence of the outbreak.  She pledged her organization’s support to the process.

Mr. Bill Burk of IREX also called on civil society organizations not to relent in devising strategies to develop a roadmap for Liberia’s future health system.

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