United States Ambassador to Liberia, Deborah Ruth Malac, last Thursday dedicated the newly constructed Barkedu Health Center, in the Quardu Gborni District in Lofa County to the enchantment of the residents and the county leadership. The leadership was represented by Superintendent George S. Dunor.
In her dedicatory remarks, Amb. Malac recalled the difficulties encountered in the construction work on the health center, especially due to the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak last year. The outbreak devastated that particular region of Lofa County, recording many deaths.
According to the U.S. Diplomat, though confronted with the outbreak the people of Lofa did not give up the fight to complete the project, but accepted the challenge by taking the necessary steps to protect themselves and their respective communities from the spread of the virus, while construction was ongoing.
She informed the gathering that the fight to contain the EVD was largely supported by the county’s leadership, with support from partners, including the U.S. Government. Now the number of Ebola cases has dropped dramatically across the country, especially in Lofa County.
“This is a wonderful accomplishment, but Ebola is not gone yet, and therefore, we must continue to be vigilant to sustain the gains made so far to kick it out,” the US diplomat warned.
It was in Lofa County that the first case of the EVD was confirmed early last year, before spreading to other parts of the country.
The construction of the Barkedu Health Center, she said, was a collaborative effort between the U.S. Government through the Rebuilding Basic Health Services (RBHS) project, the Ministry of Health (MOH), local government, and the community.
According to Amb Malac, the U.S. Government provided US$162,000 to support the project, while the community, on the other hand, supplied vital contributions of sand, gravel, water as well as their time and energy.
The project was implemented by West Construction through its Rural Project Manager, Joel N. Freeman.
Prior to the dedication, West Construction’s Country Manager, Jose Rivera, turned the keys of the new health center over to RBHS Infrastructure Advisor Joe Moyer, who later turned the keys over to Amb Malac for onward submission to the County Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Joseph Bolongei.
The new Barkedu Health Center is 2.5 times larger than the old clinic built for the residents through the MOH, and will accommodate more staff as well as provide comprehensive services, particularly for maternal and child health and family planning, Amb Malac said.
The project is one of the seven health facilities in Lofa – among a total of 40 facilities across the country – renovated under the RBHS project since 2010 at a total cost of over US$3.7 million.
“In addition to supporting infrastructural improvements” Amb Malac disclosed that her government continues to support the MOH in partnering with the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide services in 42 out of 56 health facilities in Lofa, including provision of medications, training and management support to ensure access to safe, quality services, etc.
Prior to RBHS intervention to construct the new Barkedu Health Center, the old clinic was just one small building of 922 square feet, which served a catchment population of over 13,000 people – the largest of all RBHS supported facilities in Lofa County and the seventh largest of all the county health facilities.
The next closest health facility to Barkedu is more than 27 km away, thereby making the utilization of the Barkedu clinic ‘very’ high. But during the period from October 2010 to September 2011, the utilization rates were 3,592 curative consultations for children under five years old; 8,193 curative consultations for people over five years old; 1,960 fevers treated with anti-malarial for children less than five years old; and 1,500 people over five treated with new malaria medication called ACT, etc.
Earlier, in a brief historical account, Quardu Gborni District Health Officer (DHO), Dolfelson Jayguhwoiyan, said the new health center became necessary following the assessment done by RBHS in 2011, through which it was noticed that the patient load of the old clinic was very huge.
The clinic, he said, had a catchment population of over 11,000 at that time, with over 12 catchment communities, and therefore, the facility’s infrastructure could not accommodate or serve such a population size.
Lofa County welcomed Amb Malac and her entourage to the ceremony and, on behalf of the residents, expressed gratitude to her and her government for the health center. They promised to maintain the facility properly at all times.