House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers

House Speaker: Without First Achieving Universal Health Coverage, Poverty Eradication Cannot Be Achieved

House Speaker Dr. Bhofal Chambers has said poverty eradication, which is a central vision of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led Government and its eventual eradication, cannot be achieved without effective human capital development.

House Speaker Chambers believes that no country can achieve sustainable human capital development to fight poverty in the absence of a strong health system.

House Speaker Chambers was speaking on Monday, December 2, 2019 when he gave the keynote remarks at the ongoing 11th National Health Conference which is taking place at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, outside Monrovia.

The 11th National Health Conference, which is expected to come to an end today, Thursday, December 5, 2019, is being held under the theme: “Improve Access to Quality Primary Health Care Service in Liberia.

The three-day gathering is aimed at reviewing the performance of Liberia’s health sector and to clearly articulate and place due emphasizes on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the global development framework known as the SDGs.

Speaker further, the House Speaker pointed out that UHC can be very defined as everyone who needs health care and can have it without undue financial hardship.

“Focusing on access to quality health care, coverage to reach the entire population regardless of their social status, and eliminating financial hardship imposed by health care spending,” he told the well-attended conference.

He explained that Liberia’s investment plan for a resilient health system, 2015-2021, which complement the pre-existing 10-year health policy and plan, 2022-2021, has three main objectives, which are very much aligned to the main results in the PADP of giving ‘power to the people’ and accelerating programs towards universal, safe and quality services: strengthening capacity for robust public health emergency management system in Liberia as well as providing enabling environment for provision of effective health services at all levels.

Against this backdrop, Speaker Chambers, who represents Maryland County District # 2 in the House of Representatives on the ticket of the ruling CDC, asserted that poverty eradication cannot be achieved without first achieving UHC, stressing that this makes UHC very critical for poverty eradication.

Globally, one billion people lack access to basic health care, while another 100 million people slip into poverty every as a result of catastrophic health expenditure.

“This makes achieving UHC an unescapably milestone human capital to poverty eradication,” he averred .

On the other hand, the Maryland lawmaker pointed out that the Liberian health Sector is faced with series of challenges in the midst of high maternal mortality, teenage pregnancy, growing burden of neglected tropical and non-communicable diseases, noting “These challenges cannot be mitigated without the total involvement of all Liberians as stakeholders from our partners in the global community, to Liberians in the diaspora as well as our local communities.”
He then underscored the importance for total involvement of the users themselves in the management and delivery of health care.

For her part, the Minister of Health, Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, who also spoke at the opening of the conference, disclosed that between January and October 2019, the health sector has recorded over 94,268 normal deliveries conducted by skilled birth attendants, with 7,061 through caesarian section amidst 117,575 infants were reported to be fully immunized.

The Liberian Health Minister further disclosed that 146,041 persons are currently living with HIV and Aids, while 6,554 cases of all forms of TB are living with 5,941 cases completing treatment and 2,222 cases cured of TB.

She recorded 223,446 as total number of surgeries performed over the period, including all forms of emergencies.

Dr. Jallah explained that in 2018 the MOH and partners conducted a service availability and readiness assessment which covered 765 health facilities, with highest number of facilities (268 Or 35% in Montserrado County while Grand Kru and Gbarpolu Counties having least number each of them had 17 health facilities (both counties constituted 4.8% of the total health facilities).

She said the assessment also showed that majority of health facilities in Liberia were clinic constituting 87.7%, health Centers 7.5% and Hospital 4.9%; and a little over half (56.7%) of the facilities are located in the rural areas.

Dr. Jallah expressed that the health sector is determined to accelerate access and effective coverage as the sector moves towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) where everyone has access to quality health services.

“Our progress towards achieving UHC is being hampered by the prevailing decline in domestic resources mobilization, reduction in personal income as well as shrinking international support. The result is limited resources to provide financial protection and reduce out of pocket spending,” she noted.

She said the provision of health services at no cost to the user has adversely affected the quality of care and it’s only now that the Ministry has begun addressing this issue to measure and improve quality of health services, saying “This so-called ‘Free services’ has continued over the past 12 years and we believe that it is time to introduce some minimum fees to support the Revolving Drug Fund (RDF) as an intermediary measure towards the implementation of the Liberian Health Equity Fund (LHEF).”

Minister Jallah continued : “We must take the bold step and announce that we are moving away from this disjointed, uncontrollable free health care regime to a more organized targeted services for the poor and vulnerable Liberians.”

The Liberian Health Minister mentioned that the Ministry is continuing its efforts to expand health services to the majority of the Liberian population, adding that they are gradually shifting from the costly curative, intensive programs to cost-effective, preventive-oriented community-based primary health care programs.

She added that the National health delivery system is designed to provide a complementary manner, preventive and curative health services throughout the country, with particular emphasis on maternal newborn and child health (MNCH) services including immunization and nutrition services; infection prevention and control (IPC), WASH, and health promotion.

Meanwhile, the opening ceremony gathered officials and staff from the Ministry of Health (MoH), Parliamentarians, County Superintendents, County Health Officers, Civil Society Organizations, Faith-based Organizations, sectorial ministries, media groups and a wide range of health development partners to review and document the health   sector performance in fiscal year 2018/2019.

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