Liberia: Health CSOs Network Commits to Fighting COVID-19, Warns Against Interuption of Other Medical Services

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Monrovia – The Liberia Health CSOs Network (LiHCON) joins in solidarity with the global community in efforts to manage and halt the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic cases, as highlighted in a statement released on Tuesday in Monrovia.

COVID-19 is spreading rapidly throughout the world, with a serious impact on the health and wellbeing of populations, the disruption of health, social, cultural, economic and political systems and comes with various threats to the right to health of communities, the network said.

“This has necessitated state and non-state actors all over the world to act rapidly in identifying and executing strategies to halt the spread of the virus, as well as equip health systems to respond effectively to this global health emergency,” according to a statement read by Joyce L. Killikpo, Chair of the network.

The statement added that the netwrok supports all the preventative measures against the pandemic.

“We recognize and commend efforts of the Ministry of Health of Liberia, National Public Health Institute of Liberia, and His Excellency the President of the Republic of Liberia, other stakeholders and the public in the prevention of the COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, the network has also called for further improvement of the preventative measure and wants the “Government invests in readiness of the health system to manage the outbreak and ensure essential Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCAH) services are not interrupted as the country now has 3 confirmed cases of COVID-19”.

This includes access to family planning services & commodities, access to Basis Emergency obstetric care (Bmoc) and Emergency obstetric care (Emoc), Antenatal & Post-natal services, labor & delivery, routine immunization services and services for TB, HIV and Malaria.

With social distancing and self-isolation, availability of alternative options should be clearly communicated to ensure women, adolescent girls, and vulnerable populations continue access to these vital services, they suggested.

Additionally, the network made the following suggestions:

  • That the Government of Liberia ensures that infection prevention and control supplies and equipment are available, accessible, and equitably distributed across Liberia for health workers within the public health system as well as ensure private health facilities are providing the same for their health workforce.  This includes PPE Kits and supplies
  • Ensure the decentralization of diagnostic test kits and supplies to enhance equitable access and rapid response.
  • Healthcare workers both in private and public facilities are provided adequate incentives and the right training, skills, equipment, resources and supplies to respond to COVID-19 and other health needs of the population.
  • That risk communication and community engagement is robust and efficient to counter rumors and misinformation surrounding COVID-19 response in Liberia. To ensure transparency and strengthen trust-building between policymakers, service providers and service users.
  • That government ensures improved WASH in health facilities. This includes access to handwashing facilities, clean and safe drinking water and sanitation within the public and private health facilities to enhance infection prevention and control.  To this end, the need for urgent government commitment, investment, and resources to scale up access cannot be overemphasized.
  • Ensure counties and communities are prepared to respond to COVID-19: reactivate designated community treatment centers and Interim Care Center as it was during the Ebola outbreak to ensure adequate space for isolation, quarantine, treatment and psychosocial support.
  • That research attempts, including clinical trials, will be common and some of these may threaten the key ethical and human rights principles of research. We, therefore, call upon the state to pay serious attention to the right to health implication ensuring that the “Do No Harm” principles are adhered to.
  • That Civil Society Organizations, Faith Institutions, Traditional Institutions, are strategically mobilized around actionable strategies in curbing the COVID-19 pandemic. Lesson learned from Ebola showed that these institutions’ robust engagement in the fight against Ebola saw a significant shift in gains made against the spread of the disease in our country. 
  • That all coordinating platform established in relation to COVID-19 preparedness and response – Incidence Management System and its pillars – should include representation of Civil Society Organizations reflecting the diversity of its constituents. This will ensure transparency, accountability in the response and sustain outcomes for post-COVID-19 intervention.
  • That response mechanism for COVID-19 is gender-responsive considering that women are the first line of care for sick family members. Further, there should be uninterrupted access to sexual and reproductive health services to women and adolescent girls, as well as healthcare services for key populations, and people with intersecting needs. 
  • That mental health and psychosocial support should be provided for frontline health workers, affected families, those in care and survivors of COVID-19.

At the same time, the network of health CSOs urged the government “to urgently strike a balance between these preventive approaches and rights with collective responsibilities”.

The network warned that the government’s response to COVID-19 “should be hinged on human rights-based Approach to ensure that the virus is curbed without biases, violating people’s rights” in order to avoid endangering the lives and livelihoods of Liberians as was in the case of the situation that caused the death of Shackie Kamara in West Point during the Ebola outbreak.

“We at LiHCON amplify the importance of community participation and solidarity as key pillars that have historically been critical in controlling and management of similar outbreaks in Liberia. The effective use of the formal and informal community participation structures in our health system will ensure that communities are active and informed participants in the creation of a responsive health system that will effectively contribute to the management and control of further cases of the COVID-19,” the statement continued.  

“We wish to call upon all our partners, collaborators and the general public to join efforts in curbing the spread of COVID-19. Specifically, responses to this outbreak should be tailored to ensure that services are made equitable, available, accessible, acceptable and of quality (EAAAQ) for all so that no one is left behind.”

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