Nearly six months into the COVID-19 response, Liberia National Incident Management System (IMS) on 15th July 2020 conducted its first comprehensive review of the response activities to address the health needs and livelihood of nearly 5 million people. The objective of the conference was to review the ongoing response, identify multisectoral solutions and broad partnerships to effectively respond and control the spread of COVID-19 as well as develop an Action Plan for the next six (6) months.
The virtual conference held via zoom, brought together over 71 participants including the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning, Information and Cultural Affairs, members of the parliament, health Donors, the United Nations in Liberia, International and Local Non-governmental Organizations, the National Incident Management System, senior management team of the Ministry of Health among others. The meeting was chaired by the Honorable Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah.
Since the reporting of the first COVID-19 confirmed case on 6 March 2020, Liberia has reported a total of 1,056 confirmed cases as of 14 July 2020 in 14 out of 15 counties. Consequently, this has resulted to an increase in the number of COVID-19 treatment facilities from one in Montserrado County to 21 across the Country. This has imposed a huge financial burden on the entire response, coupled with increasing expectations from front liners.
Additionally, the COVID-19 outbreak has also affected routine health service delivery with a noticeable decline in health facility utilization of nearly 40%. The proportion of fully immunized children has dropped by about 39%, while maternal and neonatal health indicators have fallen significantly.
Despite the concerted efforts by the Government and Donors to contain COVID-19, the number of confirmed cases continue to surge amidst meagre resources thus making it very challenging to effectively manage the response and sustain quality routine health care services.
Speaking during the opening of the conference, Madam Mary Broh, National IMS chair thanked the health Donors, UN Agencies and partners, for providing technical and financial support which has resulted to the significant gains made in the face of daunting challenges.
For his part, the Honorable Minister of Finance, Development and Planning, Mr. Samuel Tweh stressed the fact that due to the pandemic, most of the Donors reprogramed their finances to COVID-19 thus posing a challenge on routine service delivery. He said it was important for the country to review its previous and current status to develop a more feasible and sustainable costed plan for the health system moving forward. “Coordination is key to our next steps if we are to achieve the desired results as a country”, he said.
Mr. Kingsley Amaning, UN Resident Coordinator in Liberia stressed the need for accountability and transparency in the management of funding. This he said when done properly will build an image that will attract external investors and donors to the country.
Making remarks on behalf of all the UN Agencies, Dr. Peter Clement, WHO Country Representative in Liberia thanked the Government of Liberia for convening such an important forum. He re-echoed the need for transparency, while emphasizing the linkages between COVID-19 response and routine health services in a resilient health system. He highlighted that; lessons learned from other countries on sustainability should be critically examined as we roll out COVID-19 response interventions in our own setting. “With compliance and community ownership we can end COVID-19”, he said. Dr. Clement then pledged WHO continuous support in providing technical guidance to the Ministry of Health.
Other speakers at the conference included representatives from: US-CDC, USAID, Irish Embassy, European Union, the Private Sector etc. All pledged their commitment to supporting the Government to end COVID-19 and consented to the move to develop an Action Plan for the response to enhance efficiency and sustainability of COVID-19 response and recovery, as well as ensure the continuity of quality essential health services for the population.
The country COVID-19 response strategy from July to December 2020 involves expanding COVID-19 testing to subnational level by gene x-pert, incorporation of COVID-19 surveillance into the routine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (IDSR), home care for asymptomatic cases, strengthening Infection prevention and Control (IPC), Risk Communication and Community Engagement and Response coordination among others.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Health Organization (WHO).