‘OHAI Launches Cleft Awareness Campaign in Liberia, Seeks Legislative Backing’

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MONROVIA – Cleft and craniofacial, deformities that are often overlooked in Liberia have been given national attention though an official launch of a vigorous awareness campaign across the country.

Officially lunching an awareness campaign on Thursday at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, the official seat of the Liberian Legislature, the Country Representative of Oral Health Advocacy Initiative, Liberia, (OHAI) Hilenen V. Aben attributed the spread of the disease in the country to poverty.

According to Mr. Aben, Liberia has had very little awareness over the years, as such the launch of the awareness campaign creates a better platform to increase and widen the messages with respect to the plight of persons suffering from Cleft and craniofacial in Liberia.

OHAI Country Rep. said, its awareness and oral health education would be heavily focused in mostly rural communities.

He continued, “Oral Health Advocacy Initiative (OHAI) is proud to identify with the good people of Liberia, and development partners who are playing key roles in health promotion and addressing pressing challenges in public health.”

According to Aben, the World Health Organization (WHO) regards health as a fundamental human right, and health promotion as a comprehensive social and political process of enabling people to increase control over and improve their health and well-being.

Craniofacial defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate are among the most common birth defects. According to the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention, every year an estimated 4,200 babies are born with cleft lip and an estimated 2,500 with cleft palate. Cleft lip and cleft palate are generally caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors in the early weeks of fetal growth.

Current Situation In Liberia

According to him, Liberia as a nation has recorded significant gains in improving the health status of its people, specifically maternal and child health have been registered since the end of civil war and unfortunately, these gains were reversed by the outbreak of the Ebola disease of 2014 and 2015.

Further OHAI said, the use of multiple health promotion strategies largely contributed to the break in transmission of the Ebola outbreak.

“However, as identified in the reviewed National Policy and Strategic Plan on Health Promotion (NPSPHP), Liberia is still threatened by communicable, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and other emerging and re-emerging diseases.

Another major setback is the limited number of skilled and non-skilled health professionals engaged in health service delivery.” Furthermore, Aben noted, there has been significant reliance on information dissemination to create awareness instead of strategies, sociocultural and behavioral change interventions. Such challenges he added, are compounded by inadequate resources for health promotion activities across the spectrum of health interventions (NPSPHP 2016-2021).

ORAL HEALTH ADVOCACY INITIATIVE

Oral Health Advocacy Imitative Liberia Country Representative, also asserted that the presence of widespread poverty and underdevelopment in Liberia means that communities are increasingly exposed to all of the major environmental determinants of oral diseases.

Previous approaches to oral health have failed to recognize the epidemiological priorities of the nation or identify reliable and appropriate strategies to address them. “Realizing the limited impact of existing strategies in oral health, OHAI has developed a national oral health strategy to support the nation and partners in identifying priorities and planning preventive and curative programs, particularly at the community level.

The long-term objective is to provide equitable and universal access to cost-effective quality oral healthcare and thereby significantly reduce the incidence of oral diseases in Liberia.”

 Background of OHAI

The mission of OHAI is to create public consciousness in oral health that results in comprehensive health care delivery in Liberia through Advocacy, Strategic Partnership Building, Community Mobilization, Oral Health Education, and Treatment of Oro-facial Diseases.

OHAI will work in partnership with the Government and other stakeholders through the direct implementation of integrated programs targeting the most vulnerable people and will progressively shift towards building national health capacity to manage and carry out cleft interventions and corrective surgeries for sustainable health security in Liberia.

“In implementing our activities, OHAI will bridge the health–development nexus and leverage our extensive experience and the contributions we have made in the health sector over the years to achieve four strategic outcomes which include;

 Cleft patients in Liberia are identified and treated early, People affected by cleft and oral health diseases are integrated into an enabling environment for full social participation, and Local health resources are developed and enhanced to respond to issues affecting oral health.

“Communities are educated about cleft and oral health issues so as to discourage harmful cultural practices associated with cleft. Our health capacity-building programs will strengthen the local healthcare system by off.”

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