Home Economy Gov’t Commits 1.8m To CHW Program…Following Global Advocacy from CHWs at 3rd International Community Workers Symposium 2023

Gov’t Commits 1.8m To CHW Program…Following Global Advocacy from CHWs at 3rd International Community Workers Symposium 2023

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: Nearly 78 hours following President George Manneh Weah’s virtual presentation at the just-ended 3rd International Health Workers Symposium 2023, held in Monrovia, the Government of Liberia (GOL), has made a commitment of US$1.8 million to Community Health Workers Programs of Liberia.

The commitment is part of national health investment plan for the reduction of morbidity and mortality through the provision of high-quality, cost-effective, standardized packages for community health services and to mitigate potential public health risks in all communities.

Over 40 different countries from almost every region of the world with 700 delegates including high-level government officials from other nations, some UN Agencies, the Africa Center for Disease Control, development partners, Community Health Champions, Community Health Workers, Researchers, and foreign missions accredited to Liberia gathered in Monrovia from Monday, March 20 to 2024, 2023.

This year conference, hosted by Liberia for the first time, is being observed under the Theme: “Advancing Community Health Worker Programs to Build Resilient and Reputable Health Systems That Would Accelerate Primary HealthCare for Universal Health Coverage”.

Liberian government wouldn’t have done this than health workers, who have been living on donors’ support—as a means of survival—on government’s payroll. It is estimated that more than 1,000 health workers across the country will benefit from this gesture.

Similarly, few years back, the government, under President George Weah included over two thousand five hundred (2,500) health workers including nurses and midwives on government’s payroll, following the withdrawal of United Nation Peace Keeping force.

Under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’ erstwhile regime, those health workers were being compensated by donors.

The National Community strategy 2023-2027 provides the strategic framework needed to ensure the full implementation of the (NCHP) Policy.

The Executive Branch of government identified activities under the strategic Investment engagement and the fit-for-purpose, productive, and motivated health workforce,” Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, making the commitment told the conference delegates.

“To extend the reach of the country’s primary health care system via an integrated and standardized national community health model that can provide a safe package of essential life-saving basic health care services and epidemic surveillance to all communities and household on an equitable basis.

It is therefore, from an informed decision that the Government—through a mandate from my boss, H.E. Dr. George Manneh Weah, after listening to all the speakers—has made a commitment of 1.8m United States dollars”, the Vice President said on behalf the government.

Prior to the commitment, President Weah Wednesday underscored the importance of the medical profession and vowed that his government would continue to improve and expand access to healthcare delivery across the country.

Acknowledging many shocks that the Liberian health sector has experienced over the years, the President indicated that the sector has remained resilient, urging health workers to ensure that the country continues such momentum.

“There still remain a lot of challenges that require collective action to overcome”, President Weah said, adding: “It is, therefore, my expectation that this 3rd International Community Health Workers Symposium will ponder over how all stakeholders can work together in achieving success”.

However, in Africa, one of the main lessons learned from the 2014-2016 Ebola-virus disease outbreak is a key role communities have to play in global health security (GHS). To contain the outbreak (Ebola), impacted countries improved the effectiveness of their response by engaging community health workers (CHWs). The CHWs were involved in contact tracing to tract the spread of the outbreak, ensure early detection of infection, and provide immediate treatment. As trusted voices in the community, the CHWs were instrumental in social mobilization and educating the community about disease prevention.

The program seeks to invest in strong and integrated community health system and community health workers to implement community-based surveillance as the ‘first line of defense’ in global health security”, said the Director, International Health System Strengthening and Global Health Security, ICF International, Dr. Ochi Akwiwu-Ibe, in a presentation.

To improve the community participation in Northwest Syria, Ahamd Haboush, a Syrian CHA, presented: “Community Partners International (CPI), in partnership with regional ethnic organizations, is implementing the nutria-sensitive program in conflict affected, hard-to-reach areas of Kayin State to improve the nutritional status of mothers and children in their first 1,000 days of life under Project Nourish.

Community participation and women empowerment is at the core of community-based nutrition volunteers are recruited and trained for Nutrition and WASH Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) activities by working together with Mothers Support Groups (MSG).

We conducted this study to find out whether the community mobilization and participation are improved in nutrition activities or not when there is contribution of volunteers in MSG”
Community engagement strategy in health-designed for mobile community, experiences from Ethiopia; Abebaw Asnake shared: “The Ethiopian government launched the health policy in 1993 that focuses on health promotion and disease prevention.

The intent of the policy is to create access to promotional, preventive and basic curative services to the community especially in the rural setting: basically through the Health Extension Program, which has become brand strategy, so as to create access primary health care services to the rural community”.

Highlights were also placed on how CHWs can challenge and reinforce gender norms in Liberia. Freda Koomson, a Liberian, told the gathering that female Community Health Assistants (CHAs) are underrepresented relative to male CHAs, and fewer women apply due to community and cultural norms that dissuade woman’s participation, including fears about safety.

“This lack of gender balance among CHAs was attributed to program reforms that include a new literacy requirement for CHAs, without either exemption for existing, trained female CHAs or attention to gender balance in future CHA cohorts. By contrast, community level WASH staff maintained a pre-existing gender ratio, albeit still below parity.

Universally, respondents agreed that the more favourable gender balance among WASH Entrepreneurs compared to that among CHAs could be due to the absence of a literacy requirement for WASH Entrepreneurs 35 per cent of trained Community WASH personnel were women, and 68 per cent of CWC members were women.
In an exclusive interview the Independent, immediately following the pronouncement, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah said she was overwhelmed by the government’s commitment because donors have played their roles, ensuring CHWs are compensated for services render to communities and household; therefore, is about time government makes intervention.

To deliver on effective, efficient, resilient and equitable health systems, she had earlier acknowledged respective role donors and partners must together galvanize all efforts and resources to invest in Primary health care workers and community health care workers.

“As we conclude the different symposia, oral and poster presentations during these 5 days, we were able to identify current and future innovations, experiences, challenges, and opinions that will help amplify the CHW movement. We believe the CHWs deserve the fair compensation that acknowledges their contribution and give them the voice in planning and executing the programs that will address evolving community health needs and they should be well equipped to provide the preventive and curative care they are committed to. Most importantly, they should be included in (or encouraged to lead) conversation about their profession and its future”.

Delegates at the conference that she was amazed to see health workers taking the stage to advocate and push for strong integrated global system, as well as share their experience on happening in the sector.

She said community health workforce across the country has been able to empower household to manage their own health and well-being.

“Our community health workforce is pro-poor. They have been given power to the people to manage their own health and well-being. They provide essential services to Liberia’s remotest, vulnerable communities and protect households from financial hardship and economic challenge”, Dr. Jallah expressed.
Looking at the future of Liberia’s health care, the Minister believes investment in community health and primary will drive the country toward achieving the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development’s (PAPD) target.

“Investment in community health and primary care are an investment in the future of Liberia. They will drive our country towards this PAPD target, sustainable development goal and enable 2063 commitment”,

To fully unlock the potential of community health workers, she said, “we need to invest partly to ensure we have the fit for purpose and motivated workforce, one that empower women connect all households and condition to care; that we have medicines for treating children with malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.”

The health Minister believes “If we do this we accelerate universal health coverage and increase the health equity gab, we fully institutionalize our lifesaving community health program—programing that has been recognized globally”.

“Thanks to the President of Liberia, H.E. George M. Weah, for his passionate leadership for the community health program in Liberia. Today we are more excited after this pronouncement because it will increase our community mobilization and awareness. When community health workers are happy, we who are leading them can see performance,” S. Olasford Wiah, Director of National Community Health Program of Liberia.

In 2015, Liberia began an ambitious journey to rebuild a resilient health system, learning from the devastating Ebola virus outbreak. The introduction of the National Community Health Assistant Program in the health care delivery system and the critical role that communities played in addressing their own health needs and changing their health-seeking behaviour was a driving force.

Thus, a fit-for-purpose, productive and motivated community health workforce that would provide essential lifesaving services to the country’s most remote communities in a standardize package, consistent with the National Health and Social Welfare Policy and plan 2011-2021, was designed to render services along three levels care: Primary, secondary, and tertiary. The EPHS aims to provide more comprehensive services to the Liberian people while focusing on strengthening certain key areas that continue to perform poorly in the current system, according to the National Community Program Policy 2023-2032 document.
This year conference, hosted by Liberia for the first time, is being observed under the Theme: “Advancing Community Health Worker Programs to Build Resilient and Reputable Health Systems That Would Accelerate Primary HealthCare for Universal Health Coverage”.

However, the objectives of the symposium are to empower the global exchange of knowledge and solutions to scale and sustain community health program in order to obtain Universal Health Coverage (UHC). The event was also intended to tease out best practices and the sharing of experiences from various participants on the complementary and necessary right to support scale.

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