West African Health Sector Unions Network Raises Red Flag Over Ill-equipped And Grossly Understaffed Health Care Facilities In Liberia

Madam Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo

MONROVIA – The West African Health Sector Unions Network (WAHSUN) has renewed calls for adequate public funding towards health care delivery in ECOWAS member states, including Liberia.

It Can be recalled that at the end of a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, which was known as the Abuja Declaration, member states of ECOWAS signed and issued a communique to inform the world about the formation of WAHSUN in 2007.

WAHSUN was established to help promote quality public health services, international working class solidarity, building of alliances, and working towards establishment of a Pan-African Network of all Health Sector Unions on the continent of Africa.

The National Health Workers Union of Liberia (NAHWUL) is also a member of WAHSUN.

The group observed that “inadequate budgetary allocation for health by virtually all the governments of almost all the West African Health Organization (WAHO) Member States has resulted in ill-equipped and grossly understaffed health care facilities within the sub region”.

In a statement issued under the signature of its Chairperson, Madam Perpetual Ofori-Ampofo, in observance of the 35th anniversary of the West African Health Organization (WAHO), the group cautioned leaders and others of ECOWAS nations to not be complacent in building a resilient health system in their respective countries, despite the

The group recalled that the overarching objective of WAHO at its inception, which was to enable “the attainment of the highest possible standards and protection of the health of the peoples in the sub-region through the harmonization of the policies of the Members States, pooling of resources and cooperation with one another” is more relevant today than ever before in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

WAHSUN emphasized that though there is a pressing need to scale up funding of health as a central plank of the pandemic response, no single West African country expended up to 10% of its annual budget on health within the past few years despite the fact that heads of states of West Africa, as with all other parts of the African continent, committed to setting aside 15% of their budgetary provision for health in the Abuja Declaration of 2001.

“While we were not totally unscathed, it cannot be denied that Africa was spared the worst of the impact of the Covid-19 virus and knowing the parlous state of the health care systems in our countries we can only thank God for this. We cannot afford to be complacent because we might not be that lucky when the next pandemic hits. When we look around the world, countries with stronger universal public health systems have been able to better weather the COVID-19 storm”.

“We have to draw inspiration and lessons from their experiences and therefore call on ECOWAS Member States to be on the frontline of the global discourse to shape the post-COVID-19 world, whilst continuing standing up for an equitable transcendence of COVID-19 as a pandemic”.

Meanwhile, WAHSUN has called the suspension of intellectual property rights on “pandemic products” across the region.

“We need to be bold putting forward our concerns for inclusion in the envisaged World Health Organization “Pandemic Treaty” as the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body ramps up consultations. These concerns include the need for suspension of intellectual property rights on “pandemic products” to be triggered by the declaration of a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHIEC)”.

“We also need to highlight the importance of international solidarity as the cornerstone of international relations and putting a stop to International financial institutions offering loan facilities that constrict the fiscal policy space of governments. WAHO has a great opportunity as well as the responsibility at this hour and so WAHSUN would like to urge WAHO and its Member States to rise up to the demands of the moment and of history”.

WAHSUN as an organization of health sector trade unions, with its members as health sector workers, believe that “we can all together build quality public health care systems for all, and build stronger Member States of WAHO and a stronger West African Health Sector Unions Network”.

Since its inception, WAHSUN has consistently called for improved public funding of public services and delivery of quality and safe health in all ECOWAS Member States for the achievement of quality public services and the attainment of Universal Health Coverage in West Africa.