United States Aid for International Development’s (USAID) Maternal and Child Survival Program (MCSP) Director Dr. Koki Agarwal has urged the Liberian government to maintain a strong emphasis on capital investment focused on all areas of the health system, if the country must achieve universal access to safe quality services through improved capacity of the health network.
Dr. Agarwal spoke at the close-out ceremony of MCSP/Restoration of Health Services on Tuesday, May 29, in Monrovia.
She said government must maintain emphasis on health infrastructure, health workforce, medicines and supplies, leadership and governance, information systems and service delivery.
Agarwal added, “Health infrastructure, workforce, medicines and supplies, leadership and governance, information systems and service delivery are cardinal priority investments that government needs to address in order to achieve universal access to safe quality services through improved capacity of the health network.”
She said the MCSP/RHS played an important role in Ebola recovery efforts, noting that the Ebola epidemic in 2014-2016 was the largest pandemic ever to result in more than 28, 000 suspected cases and more than 11, 000 deaths.
According to her, the epidemic weakened the already fragile health systems in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia to the extent that it exposed the absence of basic infection prevention and control infrastructure and practices in the health systems of those countries, which served to exacerbate the outbreak.”
Dr. Agarwal explained that being afraid of contracting the disease, heathcare workers on the frontline failed to show up for work and patients stopped visiting health facilities.
She noted that in response to the epidemic, USAID developed a four-pillar strategy to control the outbreak to advance recovery from second order impact of Ebola, to build coherent leadership and operations and to strengthen global health security in sub-Saharan Africa.
“The MCSP responded to the Ebola epidemic by advancing the recovery from second order impacts and building coherent leadership in Grand Bassa, Lofa and Nimba Counties,” Agarwal said.
The results from those counties, she said, are encouraging, “because the MCSP helped to restore service delivery at primary health care facilities in all three counties, with significant improvements in the quality and accessibility of reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health services.”
Additionally, Dr. Agarwal said the program supported a nationwide roll-out of infection prevention and control training and protocols.
Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah lauded USAID for its support to the health sector.
Senator Peter Coleman, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, lauded USAID for the hardwork, but called on development partners to also focus on counties in the southeast.
The ceremony was characterized by cultural performances and giving of gifts to heads of health facilities that “exceptionally performed” during the project’s implementation.