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To Health Security: Liberia Shows Commitment…WHO Asserts

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: The World Health Organization (WHO) Country Representative to Liberia, Dr. Clement Peter, strongly believes that Liberia has consistently demonstrated its commitment and dedication to health security.

Dr. Peter indicated that Liberia also conducted a mid-term review in 2019, evaluating the implementation of the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) in 2022, and performed self-assessment in July 2023, leading to building a resilient health system.

Dr. Musu Juwe Duworko, who served as a proxy for WHO Country Representative, Dr. Clement Peter, during a press conference in Monrovia, indicated that Liberia’s initial Joint External Evaluation (JEE), carried out between September 5th and 9th, 2016 laid the foundation for sequent evaluation of the Country’s sector.

“Although the second JEE was originally scheduled for the end of 2021, it had to be postponed due to the limitation imposed by COVID-19-related travels and gathering restrictions. We are pleased to announce that the second Joint External Evaluation (JEE) is now slated for September 4th to 8th, 2023,” Dr. Duworko added.

“This crucial exercise,” according to Dr. Duworko, “is a collaborative effort between the Liberian government, bolstered by the partnership support of the World Bank’s REDISSE project, and the World Health Organization (WHO).”

She spoke at a news conference on Wednesday in Monrovia.

“This will be Liberia’s second Joint External Evaluation (JEE) of the International Health Regulation (IHR 2005) core capacities, marking a significant milestone in the nation’s commitment to global health security,” she added.

For the protection of global health security, she disclosed that central to this commitment is the periodic assessment of progress in IHR implementation, scheduled every five years through the JEE process, followed by State Parties Annual Reporting (SPAR), simulation exercises, and After Action Reviews (AAR) of Public health occurrences.

She acknowledged the significance of the Joint External Evaluation (JEE) conducted by the organization, saying “these evaluations are vital voluntary external association of a nation’s capacities in preventing, detecting and responding to public health threats and situations in accordance with the guidelines set in the International Health Regulation (IHR).”

Duworko: “The JEE brings together a diverse group of international experts every five years, fostering collective introspection into a nation’s strength and weaknesses in terms of preparedness, prevention, detection, and response to public health threats.

“This review process enables the identification of priority actions to enhance these fundamental capacities”.

“The JEE is a peer-to peer review event, led by a team of seasoned external experts mobilized by the WHO across the globe, using the One Health approach.

“This approach acknowledges the interconnection of human health with the wellbeing of animal and the environment, reflecting the evolving interactions among these components.”

In 2017, Liberia adopted the One Health Approach, uniting multidisciplinary and multi-sectorial stakeholders under a common goal of strengthening health security.

With this, the National Public Health Institution of Liberia (NPHIL), Deputy Director for Technical Services, Dr. Julius Gilayeneh, explaining to Journalists in Monrovia said the forthcoming 2023 JEE will offer a comprehensive evaluation of Liberia’s current status by pinpointing evolving gaps and opportunities.

According to Gilayeneh, these insights will chart a course for targeted interventions to overall system strengthening in protecting the lives of people, animals, and the environment.

Gilayeneh disclosed that throughout the 2023 JEE, a team of external evaluators, experts, and partners will validate Liberia’s scores from the national self-assessments.

In furtherance, he said, a comprehensive review of presentations, documents, policies, and systems will be evaluated for each technical area and site visits across the 19 technical areas will further enhance the assessment.

The culmination of these evaluations will yield Liberia’s JEE 2023 score, signifying progress in detecting, and responding to public health threats.

Following its inauguration, JEE Liberia will join a host of countries embracing the upgraded JEE tool 3.0 to comprehensively assess its IHR core capacities.

Within the framework of the One Health approach, the JEE constitutes a vital element of the IHR monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

It involves a diverse team of experts, who will collectively scrutinize the country’s preparedness and response capacities across 19 technical areas.

Collaborative efforts will involve key government bodies such as the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), the Ministry of Commerce and Industry (MOCI), the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Forestry Development Authority (FDA), among others.

Liberia conducted its maiden JEE in 2016, utilizing the JEE 1.0 tool, resulting in an overall readiness score of 46%.

This pivotal assessment led to the formulation of the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS) for 2018—2023, designed to address identified gaps and recommendations from the 2016 JEE.

Concurrently, Liberia initiated its midterm assessment in 2019, with an overall readiness score of 49%, and a 2021 NAPHS Implementation evaluation, yielding a readiness score of 52%, which will subsequently inform the formulation of Liberia’s next National Action Plan for Health Security.

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