The acting Director-General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Mosoka P. Fallah, says the country loses almost US$18 million annually to water-borne diseases but assured the public of an ongoing initiative to curtail the situation.
Dr. Fallah made the remarks Friday, December 20, 2019, at the end of a 3-day validation session of key documents by stakeholders held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County. The program was organized by NPHIL with support from the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
The documents included Biosafety and Biosecurity, National Rapid Response Team, Food Safety Guidelines, and Food Borne Surveillance, which provide the framework that gives Liberia the power to dictate even how food is kept in Liberia.
“Again, certain food needs to be kept for only seven days and not beyond. Our people eat this food and sometimes, we claim it is witchcraft. These documents will give us the opportunity to make Liberia a safe place and also make the world a safe place,” Dr. Fallah said.
According to Dr. Fallah, the world has agreed that to make the world a safer place, there have to be certain critical policies that will govern public health interventions so that, whatever is done in Liberia is also done in other parts of the world.
Dr. Fallah said foodborne diseases are problems for Liberia as the country continues to experience foodborne diseases in both imported and locally produced food.
“Most of the diseases come through food or are water-related. Who governs how the restaurant prepares the food and who govern street selling? How do we track all these things because sometimes people go to a party and there is an outbreak and Liberia does not have a system to investigate until health workers reach to the source of the outbreak,” Dr. Falla explained.
“World Health Organization (WHO) has set up a counterpart to carry out joint assessment evaluation. The first thing they look at is documents. The last two years the assessment was done, it shows that Liberia lacks these important documents,” Dr. Fallah indicated.
“These documents tell that there is a national political will to confront international standards in ways that protect the country and the people. In Liberia today, we test for Lassa fever, and yellow fever and sent samples to Senegal,” Dr. Fallah explained.
He continued: “these processes by which Liberia collects specimen and run the test while protecting the people who conduct the test and the environment and also ensuring that the pathogen does not spread is considered biosecurity and biosafety. Liberia needs these documents.”
Dr. Fallah said the rapid response team basically looks at three major things that will affect Liberia anytime, including fire, disaster, and airborne diseases.
“This brings sectoral agencies together, so if there is an outbreak in Maryland County, rapid response teams like the armed forces, particularly the coast guard, will now move on the ocean quicker. Timing is very important during a disaster because the late response would create a problem,” Dr. Fallah said.
“Today, we brought together fire service, safety division of the Liberia National Police, and the disaster management team on how we can work together to prevent these threats or, if it happens, we can move together as a unit. Interestingly, each of the agencies here today has a unique strength, resources, and expertise,” Dr. Fallah said.
The 3-day event brought people from the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Monrovia City Corporation (MCC), Paynesville City Corporation (PCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), Ministry of Health (MOH), Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), Liberia’s Disaster Management Agency (LDMA), experts and partners.
Liberia’s Health Minister, Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, lauded the participants for validating those essential documents that will address some of the country’s problems.
“We need to take the multi-sectoral approach to address some of the problems. We should be working to ensure that food imported or locally produced is safe for eating,” Dr. Jallah said.
Major Joseph B. N. Kowo Jr., commanding officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL), told participants and the organizers to see the AFL as a national asset.
“The AFL is always prepared to move at all times regardless of the capability, but always ready to move when there is a national call. We are capable of moving faster. Sometimes, suppliers do not go by road but by sea and the coast guard can address it,” Major Kowo said.
The Director for Central Epidemiology Unit at the Ministry of Agriculture, Eddie Miaway Farngalo, said the MOA remains key in preventing diseases in Liberia.
“We need to look at the slaughterhouse, which is key and call for monitoring. We need to properly assess, because most people eat cow meat,” Mr. Farngalo said.
Monday Julius Rude, Technical Lead for World Health Organization (WHO) who proxied for the WHO country representative, lauded the MOH and NPHIL for the achievement, especially validating key documents that are intended to address some of the problems.
Mr. Rude pledged WHO’s support to the Ministry of Health and NPHIL, stating “Liberia has made some strides in ensuring there is a national document.”