Like education, as enshrined in Sustainable Development Goal no.4 of the United Nations, health plays a pivotal role in the economic growth and development of a country and the strategic well-being of its people. Liberia as a country has faced numerous challenges, including a devastating civil war, the Ebola outbreak, the Covid-19 pandemic, and several communicable and non-communicable diseases which shattered the economy and surrendered the country to a vulnerable shock.
The country’s healthcare sector was plagued by major factors which collectively undermined its ability to provide quality health services to the Liberian people, thereby resulting in increased mortality rates, hindrance to socioeconomic development, and limited access to essential healthcare.
However, inheriting an under-resourced and deteriorated healthcare sector which was characterized by weak health policies and governance, insufficient investment, inadequate health infrastructure, President George Weah's administration has made consequential efforts to improve Liberia's healthcare system, stemming from infrastructure development, quality of care, healthcare accessibility to health education campaign and response to public health emergencies.
Meanwhile, these are some of the important determinants that have announced the health sector of the Weah’s administration to the world as progressive in a five-year period of unhindered growth, development, and macroeconomic prosperity. Digging deep into these, President Weah’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development, the government’s ardent development mantra, recognized the need for modern facilities and equipment, and invested in the construction and renovation of numerous healthcare facilities across the country – the construction of the 14 Military Hospital in Margibi County, the 100-bedroom Emirates Hospital in Gbarpolu County, and several other medical facilities around the country.
The government succeeded in building a resilient healthcare system that resulted in increased access to essential healthcare services, decreased mortality rates, and increased productivity of the population. This step has boosted the country’s progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. When Donors Health Pool dried up, the government added 2,500 health workers to the payroll, regularized and increased salaries for 500 supplementary workers, increased doctors monthly salaries from US$700 to US$2,000, and provided specialist training for more than nineteen medical doctors.
This phenomenon gave rise to competitive wages, improved working conditions, and sufficient professional development opportunities in the sector, resulting in a significant increase in the number of medical doctors, nurses, and other critical healthcare personnel. The government also prioritized the refurbishment of major hospitals, such as the John F. Kennedy Medical Center in Monrovia, which has been equipped with state-of-the-art medical equipment and facilities including the dialysis center and first-ever DNA testing machine. These infrastructure improvements have enhanced the capacity of the healthcare system to provide quality healthcare services to its citizens.
President Weah's administration has demonstrated a commitment to improving healthcare accessibility for all Liberians. One notable initiative is the establishment of rural health centers, which aim to bring healthcare services closer to remote areas. Through this initiative, healthcare services, including maternal and child health, immunization, and basic healthcare, have become more accessible to those living in remote regions. Additionally, efforts have been made to strengthen the primary healthcare system, ensuring that basic healthcare services are available to all citizens, regardless of their location or financial status.
President Weah's government has implemented various health education campaigns to raise awareness about prevalent health issues, such as malaria, HIV/AIDS, and malnutrition. These campaigns have involved community outreach programs, radio and television broadcasts, and the distribution of educational materials. By prioritizing health education, the government has empowered the population to make informed decisions regarding their health, leading to improved health outcomes and reduced disease burden.
The government has prioritized the training and recruitment of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and midwives. Efforts have been made to improve the working conditions and remuneration of healthcare workers, which has not only boosted morale but also increased the retention of skilled professionals within the country. This investment in human resources has positively impacted the quality of healthcare services and contributed to the overall progress of the healthcare sector.
For example, the government sent more than 40 medical doctors in developed nations around the world for specialized training so as to enhance the system and contribute to a more revamped healthcare system in Liberia. When countries witnessed and experienced global shock of the Covid-19 pandemic that ravished developed economies, Liberia’s health sector proved its resilience and proactiveness in the fight against the virus by instituting strong health policies and governance through the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.
The country witness its first Rapid Antigen Testing at the Roberts International Airport and other parts of the capital city and the government was successful in vaccinating 71% of the country’s total population, placing Liberia at 3rd best performing country in West Africa and 7th in Africa in the first against Covid-19. At the time, the government provided advanced home-based specialist training for 101 doctors. These massive efforts made by the government led to the improvement in the working conditions and remuneration of healthcare workers and increased the retention of skilled professionals within the country. This investment in human resources has positively impacted the quality of healthcare services and contributed to the overall progress of the healthcare sector under President Weah’s leadership.
Though challenges still persist including the need for sustained funding, President George Weah's administration has made commendable strives to improve the Liberian healthcare sector. Major progress has been achieved in various aspects of the healthcare system through infrastructure development, healthcare accessibility initiatives, health education campaigns, and investments in human resources. The government has deemed it crucial to continue prioritizing the healthcare sector to ensure sustained progress and improve the overall health and well-being of the Liberian people.