6 October 2017

Liberia: Ellen Breaks Grounds for Public Health Institute

Photo: Liberia Government
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and officials break ground for the public health institute

President Ellen Johnson - Sirleaf and US Ambassador Christine Elder have broken grounds for the construction of facilities for a National Public Health Institute, National Reference and Regional Reference Laboratory at the SKD Boulevard Junction in Congo Town.

During the event on Thursday, 5 October, President Sirleaf said "today we celebrate" the partnership, the National Public Health Institute and Liberia's doctors and nurses who paid the ultimate price of live [during the Ebola crisis].

She said the initiative was worth celebrating because it will not only go beyond public disease control center that will be built, but will also bring the people to consciousness to continue the individual practices such as hand washing and other measures that enable "us" to keep safe.

In the next two years when all the facilities are functioning well, Mrs. Sirleaf says they will ensure that Liberians will no longer have to suffer what they went through in 2013 and 2014, referring to the years that Ebola struck here.

Mrs. Sirleaf recalls her conversation with former U.S. President Barack Obama during the Ebola crisis here saying, he was responsive and sent his soldiers to Liberia to start the process of addressing the deadly disease.

Since then, she notes that the partnership which had already existed has been enhanced. Thanking the US Department of Defense and all those that helped, Mrs. Sirleaf said the US soldiers went beyond military threat to be able to address health crisis here.

U.S. Ambassador Ms. Christine Elder says the initiative includes the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, a National Reference Laboratory and also a Regional Reference Laboratory.

It is a collaborative effort between Liberia's Ministry of Health and the US Department of Defense, she says, adding that when completed in 2019, the facilities will be able to help Liberians to be able to monitor health issues [involving] biosecurity and biosafety.

Liberia's Health Minister Dr. Bernice says the Public Health Institute will help Liberia ensure implementation to achieve international health regulation core capacity established by the World Health Organization.

Dr. Dahn recalls that during the Ebola outbreak here, it took Liberia more than 90 days to identify Ebola and other diseases like lassa fever. But today it takes less than 48 hours to detect those same diseases.

She says the Public Health Institute plays a critical role in Liberia's health system, recalling that prior to 2015 the Ministry of Health had an emergency preparedness and response unit with just three staff which says now has an entire institute today.

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