It is usually said that the more than fourteen years of civil war that was fought in Liberia destroyed all fabric of the Liberian society. I undoubtedly agree with this statement. The crisis affected all sectors including the health sector. But the question remains ” how many years have we enjoyed peace after the more than fourteen years of civil war?” The last time I checked, we were celebrating ten years of of peace. Presently, we have enjoyed a little over ten years of peace. This achievement would not have been possible without the needed intervention of the international community beginning with the good people of Nigeria. Nigeria has always aided us whenever we needed help. They have always been the first country of response, sending peacekeepers to Liberia to curb whatever crisis.
This should be underscored ” Ten Years of Peace”. Even though fragile as many experts have asserted due to the shady economy, and other social vices, but the guns have been silent for over ten years. This has triggered the conduct of two successive and peaceful elections. The 2005 presidential election brought to the presidency, the first female President in Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has gone further to winning her second term(2011). Additionally, her government enjoys the “sweet” of the international community which has led to the acceptance of Liberia in the comity of nations. Unlike in the dark days, Liberians have some level of acceptance from other countries. With the international acceptance and investment from some of the world’s top companies, some pundits have revealed that the “sweet” has not triggered down to the common citizens. They averred that the high rate of weakness of the economy, corruption and other vices proved that the international acceptance and investment do not impart the lives of Liberians. With the existence of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, experts are analyzing the effects of the disease on the already weak economy with unemployment rate very high, the weak health system and holistically, the lives of Liberians.
With all of these problems, my attention is focused on the health sector. The sector has been negatively overwhelmed with the Ebola epidemic. Health workers are at the full front in combating this illness. In the midst of limited numbers of health workers especially doctors, they are falling prey to the disease. The deaths of these health workers have been highly attributed to the lack of equipment especially protective gears. I watched a report from Dr. Richard Blesser of abc News through which I saw health workers at one of the Ebola treatment centers in Liberia used makeshift contamination suit to protect themselves in order to treat patients. They improvised to make some pieces of the protective gear out of contamination suit due to the insufficient protective clothing. Liberia Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale in an interview with Jonathan Paye-Layleh of BBC News in 2007, informed that Liberia had 120 trained doctors and 70 of those doctors was foreign doctors. He further averred that Liberia needed at least 1200 doctors to grapple with the huge demand in the health sector. In a recent statement which was published by the International Business Times, Dr. Frank Glover, who worked with the Christian charity, SIM in Liberia for more than three years, testified before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the US. He said “This Ebola outbreak in Liberia has exposed the country’s inherently weak health system,”. He informed further “Less than 200 doctors existed in this country of 4 million people prior to this epidemic. After the outbreak in March of this year, that number plummeted to only 50 doctors.” Unfortunately, there is no straight data on the number of doctors in Liberia. But if Dr. Glover and Health Minister’s statements are anything to go by, it indicates that Liberia still has a lot to do in training doctors to cope with the enormous problems that exist in the health sector. Liberia has two medical institutions that train Medical Doctors ( A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons, a post graduate program established to train medical specialists in surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology to independently manage surgical and medical problems ( allAfrica.com)). The latter is not even in full swing. Health authorities have revealed the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine produces between 6 to 12 graduates each year which is insufficient for the population. I am being informed by some students of A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine that they have not been paid their stipends for some months now. Now, the questions being asked are ” Are there not many students interested in becoming doctors? Is the government not paying enough attention to the health sector(improving schools, provision or medical equipment, increasing incentives for health workers and others)? Are other institutions not investing into the health sector? Does the Ministry of Health have control on health issues in the country?”
In my previous posts, I emphasized that the Ebola Epidemic has hugely and glaringly uncovered the weakness of the health system. It has further scattered apart the sector. We are now enjoying over 10 years of peace with enormous international support. One would had thought that the extreme deficiency in the health sector could have been improved to an appreciable level to cater to the needs of the growing population. Education, employment, politics and every other thing cannot be possible when people are ill. After all of this, the government, international community, other institutions, Liberians will all need to help in improving the health system.