Liberia’s 169th Independence Day Orator, Dr. Dougbeh Christopher Nyan, has urged the Liberian government through the Ministry of Health and other health stakeholders, to set up an in-country center for disease control (CDC) and prevention, which will be the leading national public health institute in the country.
According to Dr. Nyan, who holds a degree in Human Medicine from the Humboldt-University in Berlin, Germany, Liberia needs to train public health professionals at least at the Master’s degree level, stressing, “We should not be content with these haphazard short-term three-to-four-month trainings of people in the field of public health.”
The Liberian scientist, who did his post-doctoral fellowship at the prestigious US National Institutes of Health and the University of Pennsylvania, made the proposal when he delivered the National Oration of Liberia’s 169th Independence Day held at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia on Tuesday, July 26.
Founding fathers of Liberia declared the nation’s independence on July 26, 1847.
Speaking on the theme, “Requirements for Consolidating Progress towards Transformation of Liberia,” he warned that the deadly Ebola still lurks.
“We have seen some flare-ups in recent months which were contained. We are also confronted with a multiplicity of other infectious diseases in this country and the region – malaria, typhoid, Lassa fever, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, just to name a few,” he said.
“And we know that the Liberian healthcare system still has many challenges, but is slowly recovering. That is why we also propose that Liberia commit a lion’s share of the national budget to health in general and financial resources for the establishment of its own Center for Disease Control and Prevention.”
He stressed that despite this, it will be “absolutely not sufficient,” and the nation would need to train its own corps of scientists who will devote their time to the bio-molecular studies of infectious diseases, including Ebola, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, malaria, tuberculosis, zika and so on.
The Independence Day Orator also urged the government to closely collaborate with other countries in the region to conduct effective infectious disease surveillance and exchange vital public health pieces of information. He further implored government to develop its own rapid diagnostic capability for early diagnostic testing for infectious diseases.
“We need to study the Ebola virus ourselves and study the survivors of EVD ourselves. During the Ebola outbreak, for example, many Liberian organizations and groups came together under the umbrella ‘Liberia Diaspora Emergency Response Task Force on the Ebola Crisis’ in order to help the country and the region fight the Ebola epidemic. We collaborated with several international and local groups including philanthropic and peace organizations and assisted Liberia and the sub-region with medical and relief supplies.”
He reminded his audience that through the combined efforts of the government and the Diaspora, Liberia and the other Ebola-affected countries received huge assistance from the US, China, Cuba and other countries who committed either military and medical personnel to help fight the Ebola outbreak in Liberia and the sub-region.
Dr. Nyan, whose Liberian origin is traced to River Gee County, then offered his expertise toward such collaboration with the Liberian government.
“Well, we do not need to look too far, for standing before you is your son, who has invented a simple, rapid, and affordable test that can detect many infectious pathogens and tell the differences between and among the pathogens at the same time in just 10 to 40 minutes.”
After making his proposal for the establishment of the nation’s own Center for Disease Control, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf honored and admitted him into the Humane Order of African Redemption and conferred upon him the Grade of Knight Great Band, one of Liberia’s highest honors.
Speaking with our Health Correspondent, Health Minister Dr. Bernice Dahn welcomed Dr. Nyan’s call for the establishment of the Center.
The nation’s Chief Health Specialist, however, stated that authorities at the Health Ministry have since embarked on the project, but under a different name—Liberia Public Health Institute (LPHI).
“At the Institute, we will do public health research into which we will incorporate the Liberia Institute of Biomedical Research (LIBR). The Institute will also conduct disease surveillance and will have a public health reference lab,” she stated.
She told this newspaper that they are striking deals with some partners, who have expressed interests in constructing a reference lab.
The Health Minister did not give the names of the partners as a memorandum of understanding has not yet been signed.
Dr. Dahn further stated that the Public Health Institute will collaborate with local universities to establish training that offer Master’s degree in the area.
Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, Deputy Health Minister, whose name became a household name during the nation’s Ebola crisis, because of the cardinal role he played, corroborated what his boss had said earlier. He, however, added that Liberia’s version of the Center for Disease Control is part of the nation’s
Investment Health Plan, which includes other important development for the nation’s healthcare delivery.