Two frontline Liberian institutions leading various aspects of health programs have extolled FHI360, an acclaimed international organization for its commitment to supporting the country’s health system strengthening.
For more than four years now, the organization has operated in the country working with relevant Liberian institutions to strengthen the health system of the country at different levels including HIV and AIDS response, COVID-19 preparedness among others.
The institutions are the County Health Team of Montserrado County, an institution coordinating holistic health response for nearly one million people, and the Liberia Network of Persons living with HIV (LibNeP+), a network of five associations across the country addressing HIV prevention, care, and treatment and support services.
In separate interviews with journalists in Monrovia, the heads of these institutions described the coming of FHI360 to Liberia as a blessing because it has helped bring great improvement to some of the country’s worse health situations.
Dr. Yatta Sackie Wapoe, Montserrado County Health Officer told reporters that FHI360’s presence in Liberia has helped revived some of the seriously challenged health programs in Montserrado County, an urban setting with demanding health needs.
Dr. Yatta Sackie Wapoe, Montserrado County Health Officer
Dr. Wapoe disclosed that the government of Liberia through the Montserrado County Health Team in partnership with FHI360, is working thoroughly in line with the UNAIDS fast strake strategy to end AIDS by 2030 as a public health threat, and to also reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination against persons living with HIV.
For instance, Dr. Wapoe said FHI360 is largely supporting several health facilities in Montserrado County to prevent new HIV infections and increase preventive strategies in Liberia.
“Persons living with HIV remain crucial and dear to the government of Liberia for an inclusive environment so that people do not consider HIV as a death sentence, but a manageable health situation…and FHI360 has played and continue to play a significant role in all of this, “Dr. wapoe said.
Dr. Wapoe, a passionate health worker said HIV is not a death sentence illness or crime because it now has treatment, and with the treatment, a patient can live for the longest once he /she honestly adheres to treatment protocols.
‘’FHI260 is working with both government and private institutions in Montserrado County. To name few, they are working with the John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital (JFK), Redemption Hospital, TB Annex, James Davies Memorial Hospital, Hospital, Du-Port Road Clinic, and other health facilities. These efforts and supports are intended to strengthen and boost the health sector especially for persons living with HIV,’’ Dr. Wapoe said.
The public health specialist pointed out that through the partnership and support from FHI360; they have enrolled more people into treatment, improved coverage by exploring innovative ways to maintain and sustain the population’s health needs.
The Liberian Ministry of Health Official described the organization’s support as a gift and blessing for the country because it has boosted the fight against HIV and COVID-19 interventions.
According to the Montserrado County Health Officer (MCHO), apart from what they do in terms of providing support for persons living with HIV, they also supported emergency plans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
She indicated that through the organization’s support, the Montserrado County health team successfully responded to the COVID-19 outbreak through the establishment of precautionary observation center (POC) and the renovation of dormitory at the University of Liberia Fendell Campus.
“FHI360 also helped fed our people for over five to six months. It also furnished the University of Liberia Fendell Campus and Star base facilities that were mostly used during the COVID-19, and brought in the needed materials. More besides, they also come to our aid in other areas anytime we call upon them. They had worked with us over the years in improving our data collection process,” she disclosed.
Dr. Wapoe furthered that that FHI360 has been helpful in building the country’s human resource capacity by providing technical and logistical supports to ease problems our data collectors are faced with, all geared toward strengthening the health system of Liberia.
“I will say that their support has added value to the work we have been doing in Montressado because this has helped the country so much that people can now respect us. In fact, Montserrado County has been one of the highest numbers in terms of infection rates. But today, we can now proudly say it has more people tested and treated’’ Dr. Wapoe narrated.
She disclosed that in the area of emergency, FHI360 helped in supporting the provision of both medical and non-medical supplies such as infection prevention materials, stationeries etc. that were used to combat whatever infectious disease affects patients and proper documentation of those who are on the program.
“I will not talk much about the 14-military hospital because is in another county, but I can tell you that FHI360 supported the 14 military hospital in Margibi County by setting it up and assorted supports including logistics, fuel, medical and non-materials among others during the COVID-19 period,’’ she recalled.
Also speaking the Executive Director of the Liberia Network of Persons Living with HIV (LibNeP+), Josephine Godoe, thanked FHI360 for empowering and involving Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the HIV response of Liberia.
According to the LibNeP+ Executive Director, FHI360’s support has yielded positive results in addressing the impacts of HIV including the introduction of HIV multi-month dispensing protocol and the scaling up of the Differentiated Service Delivery (DSD) models at facilities and community levels in the country.
Madam Godoe cited the setting up of the Differentiated Drugs Dispensing (DDD) at the LibNeP+ Office which is catering more than one Hundred PLHIV in Montserrado County in collaboration with the health facilities.
“We are grateful to FHI360 for involving us in the COP/ ROP23 meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa aimed at making their voices heard.”
She said: “LibNeP+ remain fully engaged with adherence support, tracing, and re-engagement to treatment activities, leading efforts to reduce lost to up follow-up. Through FHI360 support, CSOs engagement has improved demand for access to HIV testing, services including index testing, ART services and improved linkage and viral load suppression.”
Madam Godoe mentioned that the building of ten CSO’s capacities to lead community interventions, the reactivation of their support groups, case management strategy where each peer navigators can account for recipients of care (ROC) on treatment and the provision of sustainability packages as some of the activities FHI360 has been supporting LibNeP+ since 2021.
“Through FHI360 support, our organization is now working in 21 Heath facilities, 13 in Montserrado County, two in Margibi County, four in Nimba County and two in Grand Bassa County, with 38 peer and navigators and 10 consultants, office support and utilities among others,” she said.