Monrovia – Liberia’s new Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Williametta Piso Saydee-Tarr has pledged the Liberian government’s commitment to fully implement the National Social Protection Strategy and Policy crafted under the administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
Called the National Social Agenda, the policy is intended to address the needs of those that are extremely poor and vulnerable to economic shocks including orphans, persons with disabilities and persons living with HIV (PLWH).
Speaking at the opening of a one-day Liberia’s HIV and Social Protection Planning workshop in Monrovia on Friday, March 9, Minister Saydee-Tarr noted that Liberia cannot realize its transformation and pro-poor agenda without scaling up its social protection strategies that restore dignity and foster social inclusion.
“Liberia has over 300,000 vulnerable households classified as living in extreme poverty.
This includes vulnerable groups such as orphans, persons with disabilities, and persons living with HIV.
The government is committed to implementing the Social Protection Agenda which is under the human development pillar.
Liberia cannot realize its transformation agenda without the scaling up of the social protection strategies that can restore dignity and foster social inclusion.
"We also cannot complete the pro poor agenda,” she averred.
The workshop was organized by the United Nations Joint Programs on Aids (UNAIDS), in partnership with the Liberian Government through the National Aids Commission and the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection.
Its was aimed at reviewing and endorsing the final HIV and Social Protection Assessment report and to develop an HIV and Social Protection roll out plan as called for by the Liberia’s HIV and social protection assessment conducted in June 2017.
The assessment was part of the country’s post conflict and post Ebola Virus Disease outbreak recovery efforts wit a focus on contributing towards increasing the awareness of building social safety nets that are resilient to shocks that affect vulnerable people including people living with, at risk and affected with HIV.
Minister Saydee-Tarr avowed that she remains committed to ensuring that the social protection program reach to those in the communities that are most vulnerable to the AIDS epidemic.
“I look forward to receiving the proposed roll out plan for HIV and Social Protection and I will do my outmost to mobilize resources for the implementation.”
Also speaking, UNAIDS Country Director, Dr. Miriam Chipimo said much progress has been made in building knowledge on HIV/AIDS situation in Liberia and how the HIV and social protection agenda will contribute in improving access, not only to services, but most importantly will empower communities to take decision that will prevent them from acquiring new HIV infections.
Dr. Chipimo noted that by the end of 2017, 32 percent of persons living with HIV knew their HIV status, and 28 percent of those are now on treatment and stressed the need to reach 55 percent by 2018.
She however acknowledged that there still exists few challenges such as the need to ensure that the supply chain management system is functional in the health system so that every Liberian that need an HIV test can get it done and those that require treatment for HIV infection to get the service in a timely manner in order to live long and healthy lives freed of stigma and discriminations.
“So the barrier to accessing health and HIV services from what we understood from the assessment include issues such an unavailability of transport money to get to the health facility, and this is the result of poverty."
"Most of them don’t have the money due to unemployment."
"Poor access to nutritious food for those living with HIV and most of all the issues relating to stigma and discrimination,” she lamented.
She disclosed that the HIV and social protection strategy will focus on three high burdened counties including Montserrado, Grand Bassa and Margibi because 80 percent of persons that are living with HIV are in those counties.
She furthered that in order for the country to end HIV as a public threat by 2020, there is a need to put in other efforts to have a high coverage of HIV and social protection services in these three counties to get closer to the 1990 targets by 2020.