TICAD 2016 Nairobi – Liberian President on Need for Resilient Health System

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Nairobi, Kenya – President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called the attention of the international community to the need for resilient health systems to be built in developing countries in order to avert pandemic global proportions.

Speaking at the 6th edition of TICAD in Nairobi today, the President said there is a tendency for an apparent local outbreak such as Ebola to spiral out of control and become and international health crises. She urged the gathering to support the efforts of countries with inadequate health systems.

President Sirleaf used the occasion to thank the government and people of Japan for their strong support and continuous engagement with the Continent of Africa through the activities and programs of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD). 

She also commended the exemplary leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the decision to host TICAD VI in Nairobi, and extended gratitude to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for hosting of TICAD VI for the first time in Africa which symbolizes Japan’s desire to reinforce Africa’s ownership of the development initiatives.

“We are pleased that the organizers of this event have dedicated a special session to discuss one of the global challenges of our time – building a resilient health system under the topic “Promoting Resilient Health Systems for Quality of Life”. 

In the aftermath of the devastating effects of the Ebola virus disease, this subject resonates very strongly in the three most affected countries”.

President Sirleaf said the devastation of Ebola was more profound in that it led to the near collapse of the economy that was on the way, at 5.9 percent growth rate, to rebound from the shock of sharp decline in global commodity prices. 

The effect of the crisis went beyond devastation in the affected countries and region as it quickly escalated to a global crisis, she added.

President Sirleaf said the promotion of communication, participation and leadership from the community led to more results in more sustainability in preparedness and resilience.  She cited the involvement of community volunteers who built confidence and increased public health awareness at a very low cost.

Community mobilization provided citizens the opportunity to take ownership of their wellbeing and health, thus increasing life expectancy and happiness, the President added.

As a manifestation of the benefits of African solidarity, President Sirleaf said although several countries, on a bilateral basis, took action and decisions that stigmatized and sanctioned the affected countries, the Africa Union quickly established the first medical response group, the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), which brought 265 professional health care workers from 7 countries to join Nationals in the fight against the disease.  Bilateral support from several friendly African countries also played an important role, she said.

“I wish to express, on behalf of the Liberian people, thanks to you, Prime Minister Abe and the people of Japan for the bilateral support given the affected countries through ASEOWA”,  the President told the Forum.


President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Remarks – TICAD VI Summit August 25-29, 2016

Building A Resilient Health System In Liberia:


President Mr. Idriss Deby Itno of Chad; Chairman of the African Union Authority; President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan’ Madam Nkosana Dlamini Zuma’ Chairman of the African Union Commission; Excellencies Heads of State and Government; Distinguished Panelists and Participants.

I thank the government and people of Japan for their strong support and continuous engagement with the Continent of Africa through the activities and programs of the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD).  We commend the exemplary leadership of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for the decision to host TICAD VI in Nairobi, and we are grateful to President Uhuru Kenyatta and the people of Kenya for the warm hospitality which we continue to enjoy here in Nairobi.

Mr. Chairman, the hosting of TICAD VI for the first time in Africa symbolizes Japan’s desire to reinforce Africa’s ownership of the development initiatives that are being derived from TICAD as Africa pursues its ambitious Agenda 2063.  It provides an opportunity for alignment of TICAD VI with this Agenda 2063, commencing with the first ten year implementation plan. 

It allows us opportunity to build synergies among the Africa Agenda, the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and the proposed Nairobi Declaration.  This forum gives due recognition to Africa as an important player and broker, as a strong regional economy in the scheme of globalization.  Liberia and the rest of Africa salute Japan on this initiative and the results to be gained from continued bilateral engagement through TICAD.

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Participants, we are pleased that the organizers of this event have dedicated a special session to discuss one of the global challenges of our time – building a resilient health system under the topic “Promoting Resilient Health Systems for Quality of Life”.  In the aftermath of the devastating effects of the Ebola virus disease, this subject resonates very strongly in the three most affected countries.

It brings sad memories; sad recollection of an inadequate health care system, the lack of preparedness and response mechanisms that led to the loss of almost 200 health care workers including medical doctors.

We mourn for them and for the over 4000 persons which included professional public servants and talented youths. Our resolve is strengthening to support the survivors including orphaned children, who are struggling to be reintegrated into society.

The devastation of Ebola was more profound.  It led to the near collapse of the economy that was on the way, at 5.9 percent growth rate, to rebound from the shock of sharp decline in global commodity prices.  Growth plummeted to 0.4 percent, affecting all our plans and targets for expansion in basic services to our people.

The effect of the crisis went beyond devastation in the affected countries and region as it quickly escalated to a global crisis. We learned a good lesson from the crisis- that when the community welfare is at stake, community engagement is the best response mechanism.

As that experience showed, the shifting from policing to participation brought results. The promotion of communication, participation and leadership from the community results in more sustainability in preparedness and resilience.  The involvement of community volunteers builds confidence and increases public health awareness at a very low cost. Community mobilization provides citizens the opportunity to take ownership of their wellbeing and health, thus increasing life expectancy and happiness.

Another good lesson speaks of African Solidarity. Although several countries, on a bilateral basis, took action and decisions that stigmatized and sanctioned the affected countries, the Africa Union quickly established the first medical response group, the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), which brought 265 professional health care workers from 7 countries to join Nationals in the fight against the disease.  Bilateral support from several friendly African countries also played an important role.

It is also meaningful to note the role of the private sector in the ASEOWA initiative. Several companies joined together to support the work of ASEOWA.  I wish to express, on behalf of the Liberian people, thanks to you, Prime Minister Abe and the people of Japan for the bilateral support given the affected countries through ASEOWA.

Today, the affected countries are in the process of strengthening the resilience of our health system.  We have developed a health care regional network system that provides better understanding of the challenges on the affected countries.  More importantly, we have developed response mechanisms able to effectively and timely contain any outbreak, as proven twice in Liberia.

Despite the progress in containing the disease, we recognize the need to do more, to allocate more resources to strengthen our health care system, to ensure strong capacity of health workers, through training, to build staff properly equipped health institutions. Prior to the outbreak, the Liberian health sector focused on child survival and improved access to essential health services.

From the debilitating effects of the crisis, a 5-year Plan was developed for building a resilient health system in Liberia. The Plan compliments an existing 10-year health plan. Its overarching is to build a resilient health system that not only restores the gains lost in the crisis, but also provides health security for the people by reducing risks due to epidemics and other health threats. 

The Plan further includes the following objectives: Improved access to quality services through strengthened capacity of the health network; Creation of Health Emergency Risk Management Systems; promoting an enabling environment that restores trust in health authorities’ through community engagement; Improved leadership, governance and accountability; Development of sustainable health financing systems that ensures efficiency and equity in use of health resources;

The achievement of these goals will require Inter-sectoral and cross cutting collaboration.  The quality of service in other sectors influence health recovery, such as water and sanitation, social protection, nutrition and food security, gender equity, and road access. On the other hand, the health sector can also provide essential support to other sectors, such as better health promotion programs and infection prevention and control in schools.

As we consider improvement in health systems under the Nairobi Declaration it is important to address the challenges within developing countries ensuring concerted effort and a holistic approach, one that combines science-based evidence and traditional knowledge; one that supports the development of vaccines and immunization systems and the support of African Centers for Disease Control.  Liberia is moving in this direction by establishing a National Public Health Institute to prevent, detect and respond to public health threats through research.

We thank the Government of Japan for its investment in this plan through support for Community based initiatives, technical cooperation and capacity building.

Liberia commits to the Nairobi Declaration and pledges its support to continue to work toward Universal Health Coverage.

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