NPHIL Director Raises Concern Over Decline in Clinical Attendance

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Dr. Mosoka Fallah, Director General, NPHIL

The Director-General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), Dr. Mosoka Fallah, has told the London School of Economics and Political Science that there is a serious decline in clinical attendance as a result of the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Making the observation at a virtual teleconference recently, Dr. Fallah said key health services such as immunization, treatment, and testing have dropped by 23 percent since the pandemic hit the country.

“Patients are afraid to go to health facilities. Many of them have the wrong notion that if they go to hospitals and present symptoms such as fever, they would be tested for COVID-19 and be isolated from their families and friends, This has been one of the major problems in our health sector since the outbreak,” Dr. Fallah said.

Dr. Fallah, who provided statistical data on the health sector of Liberia amid COVID-19, disclosed that children under-five years of age have dropped in attending to treatment for malaria by 34 percent, while those above five have dropped by 35 percent.

He indicated further that due to the outbreak, 35 percent of children are not being immunized as compared to the same time last year.

Dr. Fallah pointed out that 10 percent of those who need to be tested for HIV/AIDS to receive drugs are not receiving it due to the virus as well.

“Our health workforce is also another problem because some of the workforce had to move to support the COVID-19 response. The regular health workers are now asking for hazard pay because they are of greater risk of contracting the virus. But in the current response, there is no funding for hazard pay for regular health workers. The only hazard pay is for those who are directly involved in the response, hence, this is threatening our regular health services,” he noted.

“In summary, low attendance, low service utilization are key issues. We need to do more work on risk communication, mask ownership, utilization, and usage. We have been shifting the model from bottom to up approach by doing more community engagements,” the NPHIL head intoned.

Commenting on the positives, he said Liberia has to a large extent done well within the West African sub-region, least to say the Mano River basin, as it has recorded the lowest number of cases.

According to him, most of the successes scored in the fight against COVID-19 can be credited to the lessons learned from the Ebola virus disease in 2014 and 2015.

“Ebola helped Liberia to prepare for COVID-19 in many ways. As far back as January 22, we approached the President and let him to know that the growing numbers of cases warranted enhanced airport screening. We established the President’s Advisory Committee, headed by the President and a technical committee headed by the Minister of National Defense,” Dr. Fallah asserted.

“It helped us to build the infrastructures. Prior to Ebola, we did not have any structure in place for the surveillance system. We did early warning and surveillance system and all of these were lessons we learned from Ebola,” he added.

Meanwhile, as the cases of the coronavirus disease continue to swell across the world, the NPHIL Director-General has been called upon by two international bodies to share his professional expertise.

In one of the invitations, Dr. Mosoka Fallah is being invited by the political leaders of North America and the Caribbean to provide advice on ‘contact tracing strategy for coronavirus’ in their regions (Latin America and the Caribbean) at a high-level expert advisory session on July 17. Latin America and the Caribbean have in recent days recorded some of the highest numbers of cases of the virus.

“At the request of political leaders from Argentina, Ceará-Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, and Peru, the GovLab is convening a high-level expert advisory session to advise them on the development of their contact tracing strategies,” the communication read.

“This session will take place Friday, July 17, with the explicit goal of sharing concrete and specific solutions to the contact tracing challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. No prior knowledge of the region is required as these leaders are looking to benefit from the experience of global experts. The event is supported by the Inter-American Development Bank,” the Latin America and Caribbean leaders noted in their invitation.

The communication also notes that the advisory session will specifically focus on helping these countries and states to identify and implement concrete strategies for contact identification, contact listing, and contact follow-up.

Accordingly, the session is the second in a series of six global online advisory discussions with diverse, international experts and innovators designed to identify innovative and practical ideas, tools, and strategies to support public leaders in Latin America and the Caribbean in the fight against COVID-19.

“Actionable ideas emerging from the discussion will be rapidly developed into implementation plans that will be shared with these and other partnering government institutions to implement. Thus, we very much hope you can join us to lend your expertise to leaders in the region,” content of the invitation noted.

Furthermore, the African Union (AU) has also invited Dr. Fallah to join the Africa COVID-19 Testing Alliance under the continent-wide strategy, the Partnership to Accelerate COVID-19 Testing (PACT): Trace, Test, and Track.

“As part of the launching phase, and based on your expertise leading the National Public Health Institute of Liberia’s response to COVID19, we would like to extend you an invitation to join the Alliance and co-create with us a working plan to curb the COVID-19 pandemic in Africa by catalyzing private-public partnerships. We are currently holding weekly calls every Monday at 12 PM ET / 6 PM CAT,” the AU communication among other things added.

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