President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has expressed grave concerns over diminishing support from donor partners toward the health sector.
The President said this signals that if Liberia is to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC), it is now time for Liberians to work harder to achieve health related objectives.
She made the comments at the official opening ceremony of the 15th Ordinary Meeting of the Assembly of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Health Ministers held at the Monrovia City Hall this past Friday April 11, 2014.
President Sirleaf said the country could only achieve UCH if Liberians worked collectively to build a sustainable health financing system through domestic financing for the health sector. She indicated that “this will be a daunting task no doubt, particularly in our country where there are multiple needs of a reconstructing country; however we must get to the task.”
Madam Sirleaf disclosed to the audience, which comprised of Health Ministers of the 15 ECOWAS member countries and other health stakeholders, that consideration is now being given for the establishment of a Liberia Health Equity Fund. This, according to the President, is a new funding mechanism that would help to pay for health care for all Liberians on an equitable basis, with everyone having access to the same services regardless of where you are, who you are or your financial standing.
The 15th Ordinary Health Ministers meeting was organized by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare in collaboration with West Africa Health Organization (WAHO), which was represented by its Director General, Dr. Xavier Crespin.
It was held under the theme: “Universal Health Coverage: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities.”
The Liberian leader, who formally declared the West African Health Ministers’ Meeting opened, said: “One of the many challenges that we recognize here today is the declining contribution from our donor partners. This is a reality and it is clear that if our country is to achieve the Universal Health Coverage, we must go to work to build a sustainable health financing system through domestic financing for our health sector.”
The lack of quick response or the delay on the part of donor partners in regards to request from the government through the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoH&SW) for US$1.2 million to combat the deadly Ebola virus in the country, might have led to the President thinking that donors are becoming unresponsive in the health sector.
She, however, said that achieving the UHC takes time and perseverance for it involves accessibility, affordability, and quality of service.
She said her government is endeavoring to this through a strong political commitment through all level including the highest level in our society.
She retrospected that at the 63rd World Health Assembly held in Geneva, Switzerland, she stated that people should not die because they are poor and “we pledge to find mechanisms for the poor to continue to access the health care that they need and not to pay up-front fees.”
“This is why today we want to command our health team for the services they render free in all parts of the country, though not at the quality we want.”
She reminded the audience that while the Ebola outbreak probably strikes the upper-most in everyone’s minds in the nation and sub-region, she and others would remain convince that their relentless efforts are underway to address this critical situation.
She indicated that government continues to lay emphasis on achieving its goals on UHC as carried in Liberia’s National Health Policy Plan for the next ten years. “This is why I applaud all of you for having taken the decision to come to this meeting that will give us encouragement as we all strive and work together to achieve quality delivery health care to our people,” she said.
“In our country, we are working to improve the health and social welfare status of our population on an equitable basis in the face of major challenges, many of which have been out line in some note Dr. Walter Gwenigale gave me.”
Making remarks earlier, WAHO Director General, Dr. Xavier Crespin, said that the issue of healthcare delivery in the sub-region was very critical and there is an urgent need for authorities of the region to formulate means through which basic quality and affordable health services can be provided citizens of the ECOWAS Community.
He said the outbreak of the Ebola Virus in some part of the region is an unfortunate situation that needs immediate attention in order to bring it under control. He outlined numerous challenges that WAHO is facing in carrying out its mandate.
In a message read on his behalf of Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, by WHO Country Representative in Liberia, Dr. Nestor Ndayimirije, Dr. Sambo said despite the progress made in the last 15 to 20 years, populations in the African region still suffer from the devastating burden of several diseases such as malaria, AIDS, tuberculosis, meningitis, cholera and other diarrheal diseases, viral hemorrhagic fevers, among others which are obstacles to achieving Universal Coverage and the Millennium Development Goals.
He said the meeting of WAHO came at a time when the sub-region is experiencing a serious epidemic disease, Ebola and commended the Governments of Liberia and Guinea for the strong leadership demonstrated by officially declaring and mounting an effective response to the cross-border Ebola virus disease epidemic. “With this strong leadership and commitment, I am very confident that together, we shall be able to stop this epidemic and therefore avoid the loss of human lives and minimize its impact on the economy, trade and travel in accordance with the International Health Regulation,” he said.