Liberia: US Malaria Coordinator Calls for Support to Community Health Workers
The Global Malaria Coordinator of the United States, Dr. David Walton, has said that a vibrant and good functioning healthcare system is only possible when Community Health Workers (CHW) are given the requisite support.
“One of the challenges around Community Health Workers is that we don’t necessarily recognize them,” Walton told a team of journalists at the close of a Community Health Workers International (CHWi) symposium that was recently held in Monrovia.
He noted that stakeholders need to learn how to understand and value health workers at the community level.
To ensure that workers are empowered, Walton stated that the three pillars inclusive of good training, good pay, and enough supply of equipment and medicines should be implemented.
“The pillars are very essential to sustaining a vibrant community health care system,” the Malaria Coordinator said.
“We need to make them the most effective that we can. We need to make sure there are enough supplies and that they get the basic training opportunities to be the professionals they ought to be. In this way, we can fight many illnesses in the communities before hospitals’ interventions.”
Walton disclosed that everywhere in the world, including the United States of America, his home country that is more advanced and more productive than many other countries, community health workers have the capacity to treat many illnesses, including malaria, pneumonia, and diarrhea but their effectiveness and efficiency are only possible when they have the right environment and support.
About Liberia’s low health workers to population ratio data, the US Global Malaria Coordinator said it is a challenge that is crucial but Liberia is making progress in the fight against malaria.
“From 45 percent, Liberia’s malaria cases have been reduced to 18 percent of all illnesses. This is a tremendous achievement,” he said.
According to Walton, paying community health workers a small amount of money but expecting them to devote more time to providing quality service is not possible.
He pointed out further that the quality of drugs is also an issue of importance and as such USAID is working with Liberia in supporting community health centers.
“The US is working with twenty-four countries in Africa in the fight against malaria. President Biden’s goal is to see Africa and all other countries in partnership with the United States succeed in the war against malaria,” he said.
David Walton brings over 20 years of experience working in global health to his role as U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator. His experience includes working as a physician on the ground in Haiti to fight cholera and on the front lines of the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
The American healthcare expert expressed delight in the impact community healthcare workers in Salala, Bong County are making in their discharge of duties.
“I was pleased with what I saw in Salala. The community health workers there are trained and they know their job. They know how to recognize cases of malaria. They are doing a pretty good job,” Walton noted.
In 2014 and 2015, three West African countries, namely, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea were hit hard by the outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). Thousands of people died from the contagious disease and the health systems in the three West African nations were shattered and exposed to lots of fragilities.
In November 2019, the first case of the deadly CoronaVirus disease (COVID-19) was reported in Wuhan, China, and the virus later on became a global outbreak affecting almost every nation on earth, including the United States and Liberia.
America, to date, accounts for more deaths than any other country in the world. According to Worldometer, a global data center on pandemics, 106,090,168 were reported in the US and 1,153,587 died from the deadly virus disease.
Walton, reflecting on the impact of the two different virus diseases outbreaks, mainly COVID-19, said it was catastrophic because the health systems became “extremely overwhelmed and deeply tested to capacity.”
“The US government is now aware of the terrible unforeseen outbreaks that come along lifelines and as such, there is a preparatory mechanism to avert the losses we had in the past,” he disclosed.
Walton, however, emphasized that outbreaks become deeply hurtful when community health workers are not adequately prepared and provided the needed logistics and support.
“Community Health Workers are the first who come in contact with people bearing signs and symptoms of malaria, diarrhea, and pneumonia. If they are properly cared for, they will be able to properly care for people who come with these signs and symptoms,” he said as he concluded by commending the Ministry of Health of Liberia for providing leadership and expressed hope that there are improvements where necessary and that there is sufficient support to healthcare workers across the country.