Report Highlights Huge Gaps in COVID-19 Response

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Participants at the launch of the Liberia COVID-19 Scorecard by LiHCON in Monrovia

-Virus may not end just yet, LIHCON indicates

An assessment report by the Liberia Health CSOs Network (LIHCON), a membership-based CSO working in the health sector, has revealed that too many gaps exist in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak in the country—a situation that might lead to the various not leaving the Liberian shores any time soon.

At the launch of the assessment findings, which is dubbed Health Facility COVID-19 Report, in Monrovia over the weekend, LIHCON said it discovered that “there is a significant gap in information dissemination, education, and communication materials on COVID-19 at health facilities.”

“There is absolutely no screening put in place at the facilities for COVID-19 — this shows significant weakness in our capacity to end the outbreak within time,” LiHCON Steering Committee Member, Rev. Emmanuel N. Kimen, said during a presentation.

Rev. Kimen said it works to promote civil society participation toward influencing public policies, domestic resources mobilization, and accountability within the health sector.

The scorecard tracked readiness of health facilities in 45 selected facilities in five of the fifteen counties in the country, namely: Montserrado, Grand Bassa, Sinoe, RiverCess and Grand Kru Counties. It will be used primarily to identify readiness gaps at health facilities and advocate for increased investment in the health system to respond to COVID-19 outbreak and ensure the availability of essential reproductive maternal newborn child and adolescent health (RMNCAH) services at targeted facilities during and after COVID-19.

The latest report however acknowledged adequate availability of WASH facilities within the assessed areas.  It also said that RMNCAH services are said to have the staff with the skills, however, there are little or no drugs and supplies that would ensure that these services are provided.

The scorecard indicated that the majority of the facilities assessed across the five counties lack basic infection prevention and control infrastructures and supplies with Montserrado, with a score of 48% percent and as the epic center of the outbreak being the most vulnerable.

“This is critical, according to the group, as it affects health workers’ safety and confidence as well as health-seeking behaviors of the public,” it said.

Rev. Kimen noted that LiHCON also observed that many of the health workers within the facilities assessed have received various levels of training or capacity building on COVID-19, however, the supportive environment has not been created to make them more effective and efficient due to the inadequate supply of IPC materials, essential drugs and equipment.

Launching the scorecard over the weekend, Chairperson of the National CSO Council of Liberia, Loretta Poe-Kai, term the report as a stimulus for gathering pertinent information as it relates outbreaks in the country.

She said organizations that need credible information to work with can have access to what LIHCON has found to make their work easier and effective. She lauded the group for being more farsighted and robust while doing such a significant job.

She called on the government and the striking health workers to iron out their differences the soonest possible time so that the public can begin to have access to health services.

The head of LIHCON, Joyce Kilikpo said the assessment was meant to show how prepared primary healthcare facilities are to respond to COVID-19 and keep their frontline workers safe.

“This is meant to support government prepare and respond to the outbreak by helping them to identify what resources health facilities need to continue to provide essential health services while keeping their staff safe.

“This scorecard includes assessment tool for primary health facilities, which measures a facility’s available resources to allow them to safely screen and manage possible COVID-19 cases,” she said.

“The findings from these assessments will allow the facility and health planners to raise a flag, where there are gaps in quality of services and identify what additional steps they need to take to safely continue to provide essential services.

“This could include, for example, training for staff in infection prevention and control, supplies of personal protective equipment or developing protocols for COVID-19 sample management and transport,” she said.

However, the readiness indicators that were assessed include infection prevention and control (Triage and supplies), health workers’ capacity and screening and referral, as well as Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH).

Meanwhile, LIHCON made series of recommendations in its report including for government ensures infection prevention and control supplies, such as PPEs, others, and equipment are available, accessible, and equitably distributed across the country for public sector health workers; That government invests early preparedness to respond to the outbreak and ensure RMNCAH services are not interrupted.

It says health workers be provided adequate incentives and the right training, skills, equipment, resources and supplies to respond to COVID-19.

“That risk communication and community engagement are robust and effective to help counter rumors and misinformation surrounding COVID-19 in the country.”

That the government increases domestic financing to meet the Abuja declaration which speaks of the dedication of 15% of the national budget to the health sector. The current FY 2020-2021 only allocates US$66.9 million only represents 12.5 percent of the budget, and according to LIHCON, this is too inadequate, especially at a time when an epidemic is raging.

The scorecard was made possible through the support of Population Action International (PAI) with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gear towards strengthening CSO platforms for engagement in the Global Financing Facility for Women and Children—which is a catalyst for sustainable health financing.

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