Helping to Build Liberia’s Resilient Health Sector

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The 2014 deadly Ebola virus disease outbreak was a rude awakening for major health stakeholders in Liberia to restart thinking that there is the need for the construction of a resilient health sector in the country. The stakeholders had taught that all was becoming rosy in the sector; especially, when major international institutions, including the United Nations, praised Liberia, in 2013, for having drastically reduced maternal and neo-natal mortality rates in the country. The GOL’s Ministry of Health, along with its supporting partners began patting themselves on the backs and maybe popping champagne for the “job well done.”

Little did they know that actually what they had done was nothing enough for them to relax. When Ebola struck in March 2014, they realized that all the “gains” that they had boasted of in previous years, couldn’t stand the blow of mighty Ebola, which took away many lives in Liberia.

Health facilities, including major hospitals like the St. Joseph’s Catholic-run Hospital, John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Redemption Hospital, all in Monrovia, and other facilities in other parts of the country, had to close their doors because their facilities were badly hit. Over 150 health workers, including Medical Doctors, trying to save lives, got infected and succumbed to the virus.

Pregnant women and nearly all others, including children, who sought medical attention at those facilities were let down. There is a famous story about a heavily pregnant woman, who delivered her twin babies in the open after she had been refused delivery access at a hospital in Paynesville City during the heat of the Ebola crisis.

However, the story began to change when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rallied her troop of health workers and others, including international partners, to up their efforts at combating the virus.

The virus was soon nipped in the butt and its transmission was cut. Forty-two days without a new case, after the last known survival had been discharged from the Chinese-built and managed ETU, the entire nation was declared Ebola transmission free on Saturday, May 9th. Although it resurfaced few weeks later, by this time, the nation now had firmed control over it.

Health actors began working frantically to initiate the process of building a resilient health sector so that it will be able to withstand future outbreaks, not only Ebola, but any other that might come.

The process has begun and one of those in the vanguard is Dr. Christiana K. Hena, a General Medicine and Public Health Practitioner, who returned home three years ago to help in the nation rebuilding process.

Dr. Hena is based in her native Kakata City, Margibi County, where she was born and grew up several years ago.

She left Liberia and studied Medicine in the US. She worked with the United Methodist’s General Board of Global Ministries for nearly quarter of a century before returning home to Liberia. All throughout those years, she worked in some of the poverty-stricken communities in India, Armenia, Turkmenistan, Soviet Union (today Russia), etc.

She returned home and began a non-for-profit NGO — Healthy Women, Health Liberia (HWHL). She runs a mini clinic at her home, where patients, especially women and children go for free-of-charge treatment. Her programs have now been extended to 34 communities in Margibi County.

According to Dr. Hena, she established the NGO based on her conviction of what she saw when she lived abroad.

“I always came back here to provide community services and looking at the health situation in the country, I felt that I could make a difference and bring back the integrity and dignity that I saw was missing,” she stated.

She said that she wants to give people the reason for coming to health facility and not allow them to go back because they are fearful. So, she along with a band of health workers whom she has trained, treats patients and gives them medications.

They provide lectures on to parents and guardians on different health issues, including preventing cases like malaria, diarrhea and how to take care of their children. Her HWHL also performs deworming for the children twice a year.

Her mini clinic is probably the only site that does telemedicine program in Liberia at the moment.

“We partner with the University of Virgina; we have set up our computers in a way that they can talk and consult with us and we can show them what we do here. This has been going on now for little over a year,” she stated.

Because the number of patients she sees daily has increased and her mini clinic and yard can highly accommodate all of them, the Lord has laid on her heart to construct a bigger facility, which will take in more sick people.

Dr. Hena told the Daily Observer Health Desk recently in Kakata, that she, on her own, doesn’t have the amount of money that would be needed to build the primary healthcare facility.

She took her vision to “friends of friends of friends” in the US and they graciously accepted her dream and were touched by God to help Liberians.

She disclosed and praised one family (names withheld) in a little town called Canadian Texas in Texas, US, for donating US$200,000 to her cause. She also said that donations in kind and cash came from other people and institutions, too. One of such persons in the Liberia and in Margibi County, whom she said has graciously accepted her dream, is Senator Oscar Cooper.

The primary health care facility that she is constructing sits on an acre of land and will have a pharmacy, a dental department, a pediatric ward, an eye department, an X-ray room, rooms for adults’ screening and diagnostic labs. Other facilities the center will contain would be a short stay, telemedicine program, electricity facility that will be provided by solar power among others.

She stated that the design for the whole facility was done by some friends outside Liberia, who are specialized in the design of health facilities.

Touching on some of the services that they will be offering at the facility, especially looking at the recent Ebola crisis, Dr. Hena stated, “Well, we are very blessed as compare to other facilities since this is new. Our triage is going to be across the fence so that we have better control in the main facility. We will do the washing of hands, the screening of different things before they are allowed into the facility for treatment.”

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