Top American Epidemiologist, Physician Visits Liberia

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The fight against the Ebola Virus Disease is now gaining global momentum as more and more financial, human and material support comes in to help affected countries contain the spread of the virus.

The latest is a delegation of health experts from an international social justice and health organization, Partners in Health.

The high-level delegation PIH, headed by top American Anthropologist, Epidemiologist and Physician, Paul Edward Farmer, is in the country to hold discussions with relevant partners on how to contain the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus disease. PIH, which renders health services globally, is jointly in Liberia with Last Mile Health (LMH), a partner institution.

The objectives of the delegation’s visit, according to an Executive Mansion statement, include seeking the guidance of Government on the proposed set of immediate response programs to be implemented by the coalition in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and the County Health Teams.

The delegation, the Executive Mansion’s statement said, will also discuss strategies for ensuring that the global response works to strengthen national and county-level institutions by building local capacity (public and private, including for community-based care for Ebola and other diseases).

LMH, also known in Liberia as Tiyatien Health, is delivering comprehensive community-based healthcare and health systems strengthening in remote regions in Liberia, particularly in Grand Gedeh County.

The group also builds capacity at the national and county levels and supports partners of  government in strengthening and improving national community health policy and practice.

PIH works in several countries throughout the world including Haiti, Rwanda, Lesotho, Mexico, Malawi, Peru, Russia, United States, to provide a preferential option for the poor in healthcare. They strive to achieve the overarching goal of bringing the benefits of modern medical science to those most in need of them.

Physician Farmer is best known for his humanitarian work providing suitable healthcare to rural and under-resourced areas in developing countries, beginning in Haiti.

He is formerly the Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology in the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He is also an attending physician and chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. 

He was named chairman of Harvard Medical School’s Department of Global Health in 2009, succeeding Jim Yong Kim, his longtime friend and collaborator, who was appointed President of the World Bank in 2012.

The delegation will also hold talks with President Sirleaf.

Meanwhile, International support, especially from the United States government and the World Bank Group (WBG), are now pouring in the past few days, all in an effort to contain the Ebola outbreak that has claimed over 1000 lives in Liberia and over 2000 in the West African region.

These are coming at a time when the chair of the Economic community of West African States (ECOWAS) and President of the Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, recently said that that international support was slow in coming-something he said was hampering the fight against the disease.

The United States government, through President Barack Obama, on Tuesday September 16 announced plans of bringing in more equipment and 3,000 military troops to help contain the virus.

At the military front, United States will, through the U.S. Africa Command, set up a task force with headquarters in Monrovia to provide regional command and control support to U.S. military activities and facilitate coordination with U.S. government and international relief.

This also includes managing an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU) in southeastern Liberia as well as scaling up community-based interventions.

According to a statement issued Tuesday, September 16, in the US, the World Bank approved a grant of US$105 million for Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Liberia is to get US$52 million out of the US$105 million, the highest among the three West African Countries badly  affected by the Ebola virus disease (EVD).

The intent, WBG disclosed, “is to finance Ebola-containment efforts underway and help families and communities cope with the economic impact of the crisis, and rebuild and strengthen essential public health systems in the three worst-affected countries to guard against future disease outbreaks.”

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