National Public Health Institute of Liberia Director General Makes Case for Liberia

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Washington, DC – The Director General, NPHIL, Tolbert Nyenswah, has addressed an international conference on “Understanding the Economics of Microbial Threats at The National Academies of Sciences. Engineering, Medicines, Keck Building 500 Fifth Street NW Washington, DC, USA serving as key presenter and panelist.

According to a NPHIL release, Hon. Nyenswah made an investment case on June 13, 2018 while at a gathering on Economics of National Preparedness to Fight Against Microbial Threats. The workshop is intended to examine the interaction of economic activity and microbial threats, featuring a range of perspectives on the economic costs of endemic infectious diseases, health systems, emerging biological risks, and antimicrobial resistance, as well as the economic costs of national preparedness and accelerating research and development. 

The meeting took place at the National Academics of Sciences. Engineering, Medicine at the National Academies Keck center in Washington D.C. United States of America. 

The health expert said compared to the estimated required investments to build a well-functioning global disease surveillance system and response, the expected annual returns on investment is huge. He said the indicative resource requirements of Liberia’s resilient health system investment plan after the Ebola crisis is USD489 million up to fiscal year 2016/2017 which fall short of achieving, and an additional USD$1.21 billion for the remaining period up 2012/22.  With the current trend achieving this is farfetched.

He said to reemphasize and make this case stronger, supporting the Health Sector of Liberia via-a-vis the National Public Health Institute of Liberia serve to enhance the public health and veterinary systems in the context of one health, to perform core functions that are required to tackle infectious disease outbreaks that occur with increasing frequency in West Africa. 

The absence of such a system will result, yet again, in a devastation of the already fragile healthcare system in Liberia and constrain the ability of the government to effectively and efficiently deliver key social services, including primary and secondary health services, education, WASH and preventable cases of mortality.

He told the gathering, that due to the transboundary nature of infectious diseases, NPHIL will provide the necessary platforms for knowledge exchange, cross-border collaboration and resource sharing with other countries in the sub-region.

DG Nyenswah said investing in Primary (clinics, health centers) and Secondary (county referral hospitals) health care is the cornerstone to delivering essential package of health services that are in dare need of reinvigorating in Liberia. Saying this is in line with the WHO Alma-Ata Declaration of 1978 emerged as a major milestone of the twentieth century in the field of public health and it identified primary health care as the key to the attainment of the goal of health for all which is the twenty-first century Universal Health Coverage. This he indicated will benefit the approximately 60% of the 4.5million people in Liberia the poor people that access primary and secondary health care services.

Investing also in microbial threats are panacea to safeguarding the population health, therefore, the investment case for health services is stronger now than ever before. He urged partners to direct their financial resources to the fragile health system of Liberia especially in the areas of health workers support, drugs and medical supplies, epidemic control and preventable causes of deaths in the country.

DG Nyenswah recalled the top current health financing challenges facing Liberia and that Liberia health care system is at a cross-road. Noting the “Free” health care policy is yet to achieve its objective of providing quality care and ensuring financial protection for the poor; continuous stock out of essential medicine at primary health facilities; low per capita spending; out of pocket expenditure of 43% of the health expenditure for example in fiscal year 2016/2017.

He noted that the current health financing trend in Liberia is scaring noting only 16% of institutional spending to health comes from the Government of Liberia while 69% from donors even the donor dollars 46% of it is off budget meaning it does not support the real needs of the health system.

He said to further exacerbate the situation, 76% of the resources spent in health care is spent on curative care services and only 10% on preventive health. Ironically, 80% of issues that take people to health facilities or make people to seek care in Liberia are from preventable causes.

DG Nyenswah underscored that progress was made in the health sector for the past decade but warned it will regress if resources are not quickly and speedily mobilizing that target human resources for health especially salaries for health workers, Drugs and medical supplies that are constantly in short supplies or stockout that face biggest resource gap and investment in the essential package of health services at the primary and secondary level of the health system. The closing of the pool fund mechanism in the health sector couple with other resource gap is troubling, worrisome and will further exacerbate the situation.

He used the occasion to draw the attention of traditional health partners that supported Liberia over the past two decades to look at the Liberia health situation critically to support this important human development pillar to improve the already bad health indicators for example maternal health, infant and under five mortality, immunization coverage, stockout of tracing medications, TB and HIV/AIDs rates.

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