Liberia: Liberia, WHO Gear for Joint External Evaluation of Int'l Health Regulations

The Ministry of Health, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) has announced Liberia's preparedness to host its second Joint External Evaluation of International Health Regulations core capacities, marking a significant milestone in the nation's commitment to global health security.

At a news conference held on Wednesday, August 30, 2023, at the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Julius S. M. Gilayeneh, Deputy Director for Technical Services at the NPHIL, said the second Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of Liberia's health security capacity through the assessment of its International Health Regulations prescribed core capacities is scheduled to take place from September 4-8, at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town.

"Following its inaugural Joint External Evaluation, Liberia will join a host of countries embracing the upgraded JEE tool 3.0 to comprehensively assess its International Health Regulations core capacities," Gilayeneh, who spoke on behalf of Liberia's Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina S. Jallah, said. 

He said that within the framework of the one health approach, the JEE constitutes a vital element of the International Health Regulations monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

According to him, it involves a diverse team of experts, who will collectively scrutinize the country's preparedness and response capabilities across 19 technical areas. 

"Collaborative efforts will involve key government bodies such as the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Forestry Development Authority, among others," he indicated.

Gilayeneh said Liberia conducted its maiden JEE in 2016, utilizing the JEE 1.0 tool, resulting in an overall readiness score of 46 percent. 

He said this pivotal assessment led to the formulation of the National Action Plan for Health Security for 2018-2023, designed to address identified gaps and recommendations from the 2016 JEE.

Gilayeneh said Liberia initiated its midterm assessment in 2019, with an overall readiness of 49%, which will subsequently inform the formulation of Liberia's next national action plan for health security.

According to him, the forthcoming 2023 JEE will offer a comprehensive evaluation of Liberia's current status by pinpointing evolving gaps and opportunities.

"These insights will chart a course for targeted interventions to strengthen overall systems for protecting the lives of people, animals, and the environment," he said.

He said throughout the JEE 2023, a team of external evaluators, experts, and partners will validate Liberia's scores from the national self-assessments.

"A comprehensive review of presentations, documents, policies, and systems will be evaluated for each technical area. Site visits across the 19 technical areas will further enhance the assessment. The culmination of these evaluations will yield Liberia's JEE 2023 score, signifying progress in detecting, preventing, and responding to public health threats," he said.

He said Dr. Jallah expresses enthusiasm for the impending evaluation, stating that "the second Joint External Evaluation embodies Liberia's ongoing commitment to safeguarding the health of our citizens and the global community."

Gilayeneh said Dr. Jallah added that this assessment presents an invaluable opportunity to reflect on Liberia's advancement, assimilate best practices, and chart a course toward even greater preparedness.

Dr. Musu Duworko, Officer-in-charge, the World Health Organization, said WHO acknowledges the significance of the JEE conducted by the organization.

"These evaluations are vital voluntary external assessments of the nation's capabilities in preventing, detecting, and responding to public health threats and situations in accordance with the guidelines set out in the international health regulations," She said.

According to her, the International Health Regulations constitute a binding agreement signed by 196 countries, committing themselves to enhance their capacities to prepare for, prevent, identify, and report potential public health emergencies on a global scale.

She said that since 2005, all WHO member states have ratified the International Health Regulations, demonstrating their commitment to developing and maintaining core competencies to effectively manage epidemic and pandemic related health threats while minimizing disruption to international travel and trade.

She said Liberia's initial JEE, carried out between September 5th and 9th 2016, laid the formulation for subsequent evaluations.