Minister of Health (Dr. Dahn) speech at the IHR Conference.
Today, the government of Liberia in collaboration with its partners converges in this hotel to start a one- week long assessment on implementation status of the International Health Regulations (IHR). IHR (2005) if well implementation; is an important instrument in assessing every counties capacity to prevent, protect, control and provide public health response to international spread of disease globally and Liberia is no exception.
Liberia has demonstrated its commitment by being among the first countries to start the IHR implementation in 2007 and also requested this Joint External Evaluation (JEE) to assess the level of implementation of the 19 IHR technical areas. This gesture again demonstrates the transparency, responsibility and mutual accountability placed in the implementation of IHR in Liberia.
Hence, the rationale of this week’s meeting is intended to assess Liberia’s capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to public health threats, and it also measures Liberia’s status and progress towards achieving or strengthening the IHR core capacities through the 19 IHR technical areas.
I warmly welcome you all to this important meeting and together with the external evaluators from WHO, CDC, African Union CDC and other GHSA partners; we can honestly deliberate to document the progress but also the weak or grey technical areas that require support or strengthening.
This Joint external evaluation is not an audit but voluntary initiative by the government of Liberia; bringing together all the relevant line Ministries and Agencies in a multi- disciplinary and multi-sectoral approach as seen in the list of participants. Voluntarily, Liberia conducted its IHR self-assessment and shared the report with WHO, and has willingly provided all the necessary reports and data on the IHR implementation to external evaluations in the spirit of openness and transparency. The government is leading this process to ensure that the country has minimum core capacities to prevent, prepare and respond to any public health threat or event.
Distinguished participants; Ladies and Gentlemen
Since IHR (2005) entered into force in June 2007, the government of Liberia demonstrated its commitment to IHR implementation through the following initiatives and efforts:
1. Development and implementation of integrated avian and human influenza plan as a result of the H5N1 avian influenza pandemic; bringing together Ministries of Agriculture, Internal Affairs, Health and Finance;
2. Initial assessment of IHR core capacities in 2009 with support of WHO and development of two-year operational plan. The plan was inadequately implemented and led to Liberia’s request for two- year extension of IHR.
However, the unprecedented Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak was another setback to the country but also an opportunity to improve Liberia’s health system in a resilient manner;
3. Development of a national pandemic plan and conducted training for Rapid Response Teams with support of the U.S government;
4. Development and implementation of the national investment plan taking into account lessons learned from the EVD outbreak, restoration of health services, and public health security. The investment plan places more emphasis on prevention, detection, preparedness and response to public threats and events by not only strengthening the health system but also engaging the community;
5. Strengthening surveillance including laboratory system, preparedness and response, and health information management;
6. Human resources development through the Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) within and outside the country;
7. Advanced initiative to establish Liberia’s public health institute to strengthen public health functions;
8. Development of the Global Health Security Agency (GHSA) five-year roadmap targeting the 12 GHSA targets;
9. On sub- regional and regional fronts, Liberia is among the EVD affected countries to benefit from the West Africa Regional Disease Surveillance Systems Enhancement (REDISSE) project to improve surveillance, laboratory network and capacity building within the Manu River Union and WAHO/ ECOWAS framework.
These few interventions undertaken by the government were planned and implemented jointly with other government institutions. This is a testimony of multi-sectoral and one health approach as evidence by the mix of participants in this room. Most of the public health threats in Liberia cannot be fully controlled if we don’t collaborate or actively engage with relevant Ministries such as Agriculture, Finance, Internal Affairs, Education, Youth, Foreign Affairs, Justice, Defense, and Commerce among others. The recent EVD outbreak has vividly shown that the Ministry of Health cannot contain the outbreak or win the battle against public health threats without support of other Ministries / agencies, the community and international partners.
Distinguished participants; Ladies and Gentlemen
I cannot over emphasize that the government of Liberia attaches great importance to this IHR Joint External Evaluation whose results and report will be discussed with line Ministries to increased internal dialogue, prioritization, advocacy and resources mobilization. The same report will be discussed with all partners including the GHSN and donors as well as health stakeholders during the Annual health review planned for the month of October this year. All these meaningful consultations and advocacy will henceforth contribute in shaping Liberia’s health agenda in attaining its resiliency, capacity to address public health threats and events.
I would like to wish you a fruitful meeting and active participation of all representatives from line Ministries, agencies and partners. Your tireless contributions during the preparatory phase of this mission and also during this week’s meeting are highly commendable. I am sure that building on our unique capabilities and comparative advantages; we can achieve concrete results and strengthen IHR core capacities in Liberia. Liberia should be able to have the necessary core capacity to prevent, detect, prepare, respond and recover from any public health threats and events.
On behalf of the government and with the authority invested in me, I declare this meeting officially opened!!