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“Invest In Health Sector”

-Carter Center, LICORMH Recommend To Gov’t

By R. Joyclyn Wea

Liberia Center for Outcomes Research in Mental Health (LICORMH) has released to findings from research conducted in 2017 on how communities rebuilt their lives after the Ebola crisis which affected twenty-eight thousand (28,000) people in West Africa, resulting in four thousand-eight hundred (4,800) deaths between 2016-2015.

The study, ‘’Community Resilience in Liberia: Understanding its Role in Building from the Ebola Epidemic,’’ was conducted between November 2017-March 2018, in two counties, Margibi and Montserrado Counties. The two counties were selected because they had a high number of Ebola cases. LICORMH, is a local organization supported by the Carter Center and John Hopkins.

The survey interviewed stakeholders including health care workers, survivors of Ebola, local leaders, including health authority, community dwellers and leaders, county health officers among others about their experiences during the health crisis and how those experiences can be compared to the 14-year civil war which ended in 2003.

Survey participants said they as community members should be a part of the policy making decisions because once they are involved from the initial stage, government will not have to impose anything on them.

“So many other things can occur that people may not know how to fight but, during research like this and coming up or sending the findings in the public will help citizens understand how people reacted to the Ebola outbreak and how they can prepare or respond to future health shocks,” LICORMH Program Officer, Wilfred Gwaikolo.

The goal of the study is to share with policy makers including the Ministry of Health to see how some of the findings can help rebuild the health care system, said Wilfred Gwaikolo, program lead at the Carter Center. The Ebola crisis exposed the nation’s health care system because rural and urban hospitals and health care centers were not prepared for the medical emergency.

“The intent is to disseminate the findings on community resilience during the Ebola crisis,’’ he said. ‘’We hope to meet with the Ministry of Health and key policymakers to tell them about the research and what people in the two communities told us.’’

The study participants said that during the initial stages of the crisis, health officials and other government officials did not engage them. They were never consulted about government’s response.

One major lesson learned during the crisis according to Gwaikolo was the key role communities played in ending the crisis. “The lack of coordination and consultation impacted the response. For example, many of the Ebola Treatment Centers that were built came on line at the end of the crisis,” participants said. Some of the centers were built in places that didn’t need them.

The money spent on the ETUs could have been used on structures that could have benefitted the communities.

Based on the Ebola experience, survey participants said the government and donors must include citizens in decision making or plans for responding to medical or other emergencies.

The group recommended that the government invests in health care facilities, so that communities can respond better in case of future medical outbreaks.

They further recommended that government maintained and improved on those structures that were built during the EVD outbreak so that it can be used for future health shocks.

The group also recommended that national government continue its engagement with the Community now that there is some level of stability.

‘’I think the issue of preparedness is everything,’’ Gwaikolo said. ‘People’s lives were shattered during the Ebola outbreak because they didn’t know what the sickness was and how to treat it.’’

The greatest asset during the crisis, he said, was the human capacity and the ability of citizens to support their families and communities and prevent the disease from spreading.

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