PREVAIL Publish Ebola I Vaccine Results …Study Produce Year-Long Immune Response

 

The Co-Principal Investigator of the Partnership for Research on Ebola Virus in Liberia (PREVAIL) Dr. Fatorma Bolay has released statement on the institution’s Ebola 1 Vaccine Study results published in New England Journal of Medicine at the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT).

Dr. Bolay said the clinical study was launched on February 2, 2015 and that PREVAIL is still trying to bring the Ebola outbreak under control in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

“Let me hasten to say that PREVAIL conducts collaborative biomedical research in accordance with best practices, to advance science, strengthen health policy and practice, and improve the health of Liberians and people worldwide.

Dr. Bolay said PREVAIL was established in 2014 in response to a request made by former Liberian Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwinnegale to the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, Sylvia Burwell for the United States Government to assist Liberia in the development of vaccines and therapeutics to tackle Ebola.

He indicated that the project is a joint clinical research partnership between the Liberian and U. S. governments through the Ministry of Health of Liberia and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“PREVAIL 1 was the first large-scale Ebola study conducted in Liberia. Between February 2 and April 30, 2015, 1,500 men and women ages 18 and older were enrolled into the study at Redemption Hospital in New Kru Town in Monrovia. People who enrolled in the study has no reported history of Ebola virus disease. The participants were divided at random into three groups of 500 each,” said Dr. Bolay.

The Prevail Co-Investigator revealed that one group of people received one test vaccine, the second group received another test vaccine, and the third group received a placebo, or saltwater injection, noting that it was important to include the placebo so that their research team could compare how well the test vaccines worked.

“The study was originally designed to enroll 27,000 volunteers to see whether the vaccines could prevent Ebola virus disease. However, it had to be scaled back to be much smaller when the decline in new Ebola cases made it impossible to conduct the larger study,” Dr. Bolay indicated.

He furthered: Participants gave blood samples before vaccination and again at one week, one month, six months, and one year post-vaccination.

The medical practitioner noted that the study team tested each of these samples for infection-fighting antibodies against the Ebola virus and that after one week, only modest levels of antibodies were seen with both vaccines.

However, he revealed that by one month, 71 percent of cAd3-EBOZ recipients and 84 percent of rVSV-ZEBOV recipients developed an antibody response compared with three percent of placebo recipients.

“At one year, the antibody responses were largely maintained in both groups: 64 percent of cAd3-EBOZ recipients and 80 percent of rVSV-ZEBOV recipients had antibody response compared with seven percent of placebo recipients,” Dr. Boley told journalists.

He said that some participants who received the test vaccines had temporary mild to moderate side effects, including headaches, muscle pain, fever and fatigue, stressing that these side effects varied from one person to another.

“Our two volunteers, Emmanuel Lansana and Ambassador Endee, will share their experiences with you all. Overall, no major safety concerns related to the vaccines were identified. The results show that the two test vaccines, cAd3-EBOZ and rVSV-ZEBOV, pose no major safety concerns and can produce immune responses within one month after vaccination that last for at least one year. This result was published in the October 12th issue of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine,” he indicated.

He stressed: Like my colleague and co-Principal Investigator on the study, Dr. Stephen Kennedy, said two weeks ago, “by developing research capacity and infrastructure to answer questions about Ebola and other infectious disease that are threats to global health, PREVAIL has become a successful model for the implementation of clinical trials during health outbreaks in resource-constrained environments.”

“The other co-leader in addition to Dr. Kennedy and myself is Dr. H. Clifford Lane, Deputy Director for Clinical Research and Special Projects at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH), which sponsored the study in collaboration with the Liberian Ministry of Health (MoH),” said Dr. Bolay

Prevail said the institution is extremely thankful to have enrolled more than a thousand Liberian volunteers into the trial so quickly and to have more than 98 percent of those who enrolled return for their follow-up visits during the year and that the study was a true collaboration with the people of Liberia who participated and made it a success.

“Let me state here that the PREVAIL I study will continue to follow for several years those who had enrolled into the study to determine the long term benefits of the vaccines,” Dr. Bolay noted

“At PREVAIL, we are doing our best to make an impact on the global public health through clinical research. As Tolbert Nyenswah, Director General of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL) noted recently, and I quote, “We cannot succeed in the fight against Ebola unless we identify primary prevention tools.  Through PREVAIL, we are developing vaccines and therapeutics in our region that can help Liberians and the rest of the world“, unquote,” he noted.

He concluded: “The cAd3-EBOZ vaccine candidate was co-developed by NIAID’s Vaccine Research Center and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), while rVSV-ZEBOV, initially engineered by scientists from the Public Health Agency of Canada, is now licensed to Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp., a subsidiary of Merck & Co. GSK. Merck provided the test

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LCS, Partner Conduct Free Breast Cancer Screening

By Mafanta Kromah

The Liberia Cancer Society (LCS), in partnership with the SDA Cooper Hospital, is conducting a free breast cancer screening program focused on free breast exam and consultation to women and men between age 15 to 19.

Addressing a press conference Wednesday, October 18, 2017, at the African Methodist Episcopal University Administrative Building in Monrovia, LCS Executive Director, Madam (Dr.) Dawn Cooper Barnes, noted that the first screening day will be conducted on Sunday October 22, 2017 at the SDA Cooper Hospital on 12th Street Sinkor.

Madam Barnes noted that the LCS in partnership with the Ministry of Health is committed to improving cancer treatment and saving lives, noting that the screening program for breast cancer is one of its types of community program to help make awareness on the issue of cancer to Liberian society.

She said upon the screening on Sunday, the team will move from community to community to offer the same service to as many people as it can reach.

Dr. Barnes also said they are in need of volunteers who can help reach the program in various communities, adding, “We need doctors who can help with the screening and training as well as others who can set up educate those coming for screening.”

She asserted that, “we hope that by training healthcare workers, they can start breast cancer screening program in their own communities.

She called on people who would like to be volunteers to visit the SDA Cooper Hospital or call cell number 0777551547.

At the same time, Dr. Gillian Seton, the general surgeon at the SDA Cooper Hospital, said that the screening program has three goals: raising awareness on breast cancer and counseling regarding any breast problems that will be found, teach women to get a yearly breast exam and to train more healthcare professionals to screen for breast cancer.

“Training will be provided at each screening day for licensed midwives, nurses and nurse aids and even physicians that want to gain more skills on cancer,” said Dr. Seton.

She continued: “We also hope to aid in identifying other breast problems such as infections and non-cancer knots in the breast, then providing counseling and advice on how to get the problem treated.”

Dr. Seton spoke of importance of women to do yearly examination, noting that there are small knots that can be found in the breast by the healthcare workers before the individuals themselves can feel the knot in their body.

She maintained that cancer is a very solemn and bad disease but can be treated based on the early diagnoses and treatment, adding that breast cancer starts when cells grow out of control and form a knot.

Dr. Seton explained that the symptoms of breast cancer include hard knot anywhere in the breast, swelling, thickening or dimpling skin, nipple drainage and retraction. She said at time there can be infection about cancer that makes it important for medical attention to be sought anytime one notices these signs.

She asserted that men can also be affected with breast cancer even though they have a very small amount of the tissue in the chests, maintaining that some can be inherited from family.

 

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SWAT Debunks Negative Reports On ‘Bella Luna’ Rice

A major Liberian rice importer, Supply West Africa Traders (SWAT) has termed as “slanted news,” report insinuating that a consignment of Bella Luna Indian Parboiled Long Grain Rice contaminated with harmful substance is headed to West Africa from an unknown destination.

The Chief Executive Officer of SWAT, George N. Nehme, has told journalists in Monrovia that information regarding the cereal grain is false, misleading and lacks any iota of true, indicating, “this is something that constantly comes from our detractors who have attempted to undermined gains we have made in this country.”

Chief Executive Officer Nehme used the opportunity to commend and gratify the Government and people of Liberia for a smooth and peaceful atmosphere afforded the company’s management since it resumed operation in Liberia.

From  customers’ point of view,   the cereal grain (Bella Luna Indian  Parboiled Rice Long Grain 5% Broken) is one of the most widely consumed staple foods and is perceived as a top premium brand from a trusted rice dealer with several years of delivering dependable and consistent quality.

Sources in the business community have also acknowledged that the company has the capacity to supply rice on the Liberian market throughout the year with the quantity and quality of the product fit for the market and is always available and channeled through its many distributors and retailers throughout the country.

A top source at the  Ministry of Commerce told the In Profile Daily Wednesday, October 18, 20 17, that  the Bella Luna Brand has been tested both locally and internationally and is guaranteed to satisfy consumers’ needs, noting, “they mostly prefer the cereal grain.”

Meanwhile, according to Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in Liberia, Rice, at 248 average grams daily per capital, is the only important source of cereal carbohydrates in the Liberian diet.

It is noted that imported rice is the lion’s share of rice availability in Liberia, having gone up 75% since 2011, now comprising almost 70% of rice consumption.

The rice importing industry is consolidated as four importers control around 95% of all rice imports in the country.

 

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EPA Releases Findings On Alleged Polluted Water In Bong

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Crisis Management Team have discovered  the MNG uncontrolled discharge of slurry that contains high concentration of cyanide.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the September 27, 2017 intervened into rupture of a section of the geo-membrane of the Tailing Storage Facility (TSF) which occurred at the MNG Gold Mining site in Kokoya Bong County, the situation that resulted into an uncontrolled discharge of slurry containing high concentration of cyanide to the Sein Creek.

Speaking at a press conference in the conference hall of the EPA on Tuesday October 17, 2017, the Executive Director, Urias S. Goll, noted that upon the visit of the technicians from the Crisis Management Team (CMT), they were able to discover that no free cyanide was detected in the Sein Creek, which had a concentration levels of 0.310ppm.

During the first trip by the team they observed that cyanide is a chemical that is used to clean and move gold from its ore and also used to exterminate pests and vermin in ships and buildings.

He noted that from the investigation, the team discovered that out of the six hand pumps that were assessed, there was no indication of cyanide concentration on impact to the ground water.

Goll said unlike the previous assessment, the free cyanide level has decreased by 44% from the 0.966ppm to 0.54ppm within the TSF, “It can be acceptable considering the limit is 50mg/l in TSF according to international cyanide management code,” he said.

It can be recalled that 34 persons were reported hospitalized at the Phebe Hospital upon the occurrence of the rupture, but the Director has stated that out of the 34, six persons are still in the care of the MNG because they need further examination, adding that the rest have been discharged without any complication. “We have not received the latest report from the six persons but will inform the public once the doctor submits the details of the examination,” he noted.

Goll maintained that the EPA has given the MNG the responsibility to provide food for the community, noting that based on their request to the entity, the MNG has provided 300 bags of rice, four cartoons of chicken, three cartoons of beef and four poll tank to supply clean and safe water to the community for the month of October.

However, the EPA and the CMT have authorized the MNG to take two immediate actions which call for the MNG to dewater the TSF that holds about 300,000 cubic meters of water under strict compliance with the International Finance Corporation standards and the Water Quality Guidelines of Liberia.

According to him, a third party has been hired to conduct compliance testing and monitoring during the dewatering process. “This dewatering process is intended to assess the full damage of the TSF in order to ensure comprehensive rehabilitation and repair,” he stressed.

Goll also explained that the MNG will construct a mini-dam (TST) as interim to continue operation while the current TSF is being adequately repaired, noting that the mini-dam is also part of the expansion plan developed by the MNG for the near-term future. “The CMT will again visit the site on the 19 of this month to continue its investigation,” he concluded.

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“Make Hand-washing Part of Life” -Margibi Official on Global Hand Washing Day

A program in observance of the 9th anniversary of Global Hand-washing Day has taken place in Kakata, Margibi County with calls for Liberians to add regular hands washing to their ways of life if they are to remain safe from water-borne related diseases.

The Global Hand Washing Day celebration interspersed with parade by students through the principal streets of Kakata and an indoor event where students preformed dramas and songs depicting messages on the importance of regular hands washing.

The Global Hand Washing Day celebration held under the theme: “Our Hand Our Future” was organized by the faith-based organization, Living Water International (LWI) under the auspices of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) WASH in School Project.

Mr. Joshua Robinson, Margibi County Assistant Superintendent for Development Serving as the keynote speaker at Global Hand Washing Day celebration on Monday, October 16, 2017, said the day which was first commemorated in 2018 was basically set aside by the world in order to create awareness globally on the importance and benefit of hand washing.

He intimated that this idea was triggered because people across the world were not see the necessity of regularly washing their hands after every minute of interactions with others.

The Margibi County Assistant Superintendent for Development reminded the audience at the Global Hand Washing Day celebration, graced predominately by students, that the human hands on a daily basis contain germs and other diseases due to interactions with others through handshakes and attendance to the toilet.

He recommended that as people on a daily basis engage in handshakes and attendance to the toilet or restroom to always remember to wash their hands regularly to avoid contacting germs and diseases which are recipes for water-borne related sicknesses.

He, however, warned that water-borne diseases are life threatening adding that they are acquire through people refusal to regularly wash their hands and they are not of  witchcraft.

For his part, Living Water International (LWI)-Liberia Country Director, Austin Nyaplue disclosed that the Global Hand Washing Day celebration in Kakata is in furtherance of activities forming part of his organization implementation of UNICEF-WASH in School project currently working with about 25 schools in Kakata District in Margibi County.

Mr. Nyaplue asserted that as it is necessary to integrate hygiene and sanitation promotion with other programs, against such background, the LWI is currently involved with the establishment of School Health Clubs and construction of sanitation and hygiene facilities on the campuses of the 25 partners’ schools in Margibi County.

The Living Water International (LWI)-Liberia Country Director revealed that his organization is facing serious challenge in the implementation of the UNICEF-WASH in School project as students of these schools are not staying in schools for the required time on a daily basis, thus making it difficult for his team to adequately train the students on the WASH and sanitation promotion in their respective schools.

He at the same time recommended the need for the students and schools authorities to take the responsibility of maintaining the constructed sanitation and hygiene on the campuses if only the WASH and sanitation promotion in their schools are to be sustainable.

WaterAid Liberia/Sierra Leone Stresses WASH Improvements In Schools

As the world celebrated Global Hand washing Day on Sunday, October 15, WaterAid in Liberia and Sierra Leone has renewed its call for improvements to water, sanitation and hygiene in schools.

One in three schools around the world do not have regular access to water, basic private toilets, or a way to wash hands with soap.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 50% of schools are without access to water.

Thirsty children cannot learn, nor can children who are worried about where they might be able to relieve themselves. And children who are ill from dirty water or because they cannot wash their hands with soap are often unable to go to school at all.

An estimated 443 million school days are lost every year because of water-related illnesses.

WaterAid Global Head of Campaigns Savio Carvalho said:

“Clean, plentiful water, good sanitation and good hygiene including handwashing with soap are absolutely essential to effective education, wherever you are in the world. Yet more than a third of schools are without even rudimentary access to water.

This Global Handwashing Day, we are calling on governments and donors to take action on this injustice.”

Access to water, sanitation and hygiene at school is also a matter of gender equality: Girls are more likely to miss lessons or to drop out completely once they start menstruating if their school does not have a decent toilet where they can change menstrual cloths in dignity and privacy.

Globally, 1 in 10 people don’t have clean water, and 1 in 3 people don’t have a decent toilet. It is a health crisis which claims the lives of 289,000 children under five each year, and which leaves girls and women particularly burdened and at risk, from the moment of birth, throughout their school years and into adulthood and old age.

Through the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, world leaders have promised to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe water and sanitation by 2030. To keep that promise, ensuring water, sanitation and hygiene in every school must be a priority.

WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 35 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.

Around 289,000 children die each year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s about 800 children each day, or one child every two minutes.

Over 844 million people (around one in ten) are without access to clean water

Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation

For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.

Just £15 can help provide one person with access to safe water.

For details on how individual countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, please see our online database, WASHWatch.org.

WaterAid Hosts Meeting for WASH Partners’ Review

By Fredrick P. W. Gaye from Bo, Sierra Leone

 

A three-day meeting on WASH advocacy, service delivery and governance activities in Sierra Leone and Liberia, began on Monday, September 18, 2017, in Bo City, Sierra Leone. WASH is water, sanitation and hygiene.

Hosted by WaterAid Liberia & Sierra Leone, the mid-year review gathering is intended for representatives from partnering organizations to review and reflect on their past and ongoing performances and plans.

The meeting focuses on activities carried from April to September, highlighting achievements, challenges, lessons learned and what can be done to overcome the challenges including budget constraints when implementing planned activities.

Partnering Liberian organizations represented at the gathering include: WASH Reporters & Editors Network (WASH R&E Network), Community Development Services (CODES), United Youth fro Peace, Education, Transparency and Development in Liberia (UYPETDL) and SHALOM. Those of host Sierra Leone are: WASH Media, WASHNet, Kenema Technical Team, Pujehun Technical Team, Movement towards Peace and Development Agency (MOPADA) and HELP, among others.

Activities of the interactive gathering include presentations by participants on their respective organizations, experience-sharing on administrative and technical implementations on advocacy, service delivery and governance as well as partnership review.

Partner organizations are showcasing their practical success stories, indicating impacts their activities are making in communities. Key among impacts including the willingness of citizens to take ownership of improved WASH services.

All is geared towards learning and finding missing links in past activities to wright the wrongs in meeting the expected outcomes.

Also, partners are being asked to be vigilant in implementing projects, to woo more funding in the face of donor fatigue.

At the end of the gathering, participants will formulate, integrate and review a plan to serve as a guiding tool for their organizations’ planned and further activities.

Though there are some level of positive changes, the head of Liberia WASH R&E Network, Augustine Myers, in his presentation, admitted some challenges in his country. The WASH media network boss named deplorable road condition and ongoing political activities as some of the challenges his organization faces.

In terms of achievements, he noted that WASH Media Report compels government to investigate outcome from WaterAid’s Environmental, Social and Health Impact Report in Cape Mount and Gbarpolu counties.

In his opening remark, the country director for WaterAid Liberia & Liberia, Mr. Patrick Cheah, thanked partners for the level of works under WaterAid partnership. He also told participants to be interactive as a way of experience sharing and to see how to coordinate and integrate programs intended to promote WASH activities in the two countries.

According to Cheah, WaterAid is committed to ensuring that citizens of the countries gain access to improved WASH facilities and service delivery as well as governance.

 

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Over 30 Health Workers Attend Advanced IPC Training

 

 

The Ministry of Health in collaboration with the World Health Organization is conducting a close to two weeks’ advanced Infection Prevention and Control (IPC)  training for more than 30 health practitioners in Liberia.

The pilot project, as it is called, began on Monday, July 31, 2017 and will end on August 11, 2017 at the Bella Casa Hotel in Sinkor, Monrovia.

At the opening ceremony on Monday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Country Director for Liberia, Dr. Desmond Williams, lauded those who have turned out from across the country to participate in the training.

Dr. Williams noted that there is a particular reason while he is always excited about Infection Prevention and Control, making specific reference to September 2014 when he arrived in Liberia at the time the Ebola scourge was at its peak.

According to him, any healthcare system is as strong as the people who are in it, and people who sacrifice and put their lives on the line everyday to save their fellow countrymen.

Dr. Williams said this was demonstrated during the Ebola crisis when hundreds of health workers died in the West African Region where the epidemic was discovered, as a result of which hospitals, clinics and other health facilities were closed down for many months and people could not seek medical attention at that terrible time in the Ebola-affected countries-Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

He indicated that the IPC management is not a one day event or an overnight solution, but a process that calls for continuous practice that needs to be demonstrated in the hospitals, clinics and health centers about how to provide care for patients while practitioners themselves are very mindful of self-protection.

He thanked WHO and other partners involved in formulating the curriculum being used for the advanced IPC training in Liberia for focal persons, who are expected to make maximum use of what they would be taught to be transferred to other health workers who could not be opportune to attend the training.

Dr. Williams assured CDC’s willingness and commitment to always work along with WHO, the Ministry of Health and other partners in providing better healthcare delivery, hoping that one thing to learn from should be the legacy which Ebola made health practitioners to note during the devastating health crisis in the country.

He urged the participants to learn and properly utilize what they are taught and that a curriculum from such training can form part of the university’s curriculum for medical students.

At the same time, WHO Representative in Liberia, Dr. Alex Gasasira, commended the Ministry of Health for organizing the training program, and for demonstrating a strong leadership role in tackling challenges associated with Liberia’s resilient health system.

Dr. Gasasira observed that since the outbreak of Ebola and its containment, the Ministry of Health has strived to ensure a healthy environment in the country, by collaborating with partners in undertaking initiatives for better healthcare delivery, something he termed as laudable.

He encouraged health workers in Liberia to remain committed in combating diseases to save human lives, assuring that WHO will always support health-driven activities.

Dr. Gasasira, impressed with the development so far, admonished the participants to use the curriculum for the advanced IPC training as their daily guide in their places of work in fulfillment of combating infectious diseases in the country.

He said as far as his knowledge can serve him, the advanced IPC training is the first in the region hence it has to be taken seriously.

Meantime, Liberia’s Medical Doctor, Dr. Francis N. Kateh, who formally open the training workshop, said the Assistant Minister for Curative at MOH, Dr. Catherine Cooper, is symbolic of Infection Prevention and Control in Liberia who deserves  flowers while still alive.

He indicated that talking about improved health system in the country, some of the causes can be alluded to Dr. Cooper’s intervention.

Dr. Kateh also thanked Dr. Gasasira and Dr. Williams for their tireless efforts in collaborating with other partners and the Ministry of Health for possible interventions geared towards transforming the health system of Liberia.

He further hailed facilitators of the training who came from Geneva and elsewhere for showing interest in helping the country to address some of its critical health needs, especially following the Ebola outbreak.

Dr. Kateh told the participants that the major bridge that connects one with an assigned duty is ‘passion,’ stressing that the practitioners should always have passion for the work they do.

Meanwhile,  a background information regarding the advanced training indicates that Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) training and education forms one of the eight recommendations of the new WHO Guidelines on Core Components of IPC Programmes at the National and Acute Health Care Facility Level, and one component of the WHO recommended multimodal improvement strategy.

Accordingly, a recent IPC workshop of Ministry of Health (MOH) representatives and relevant stakeholders from across Africa organized by WHO, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Infection Control Africa Network, focused on IPC implementation challenges and opportunities.

A strong consensus emerging from the meeting was the need for strengthened training strategies, including the development of standardized training packages for IPC professionals in low-resource settings to support successful implementation and IPC country capacity building.

To address this need, the WHO IPC Global Unit is developing advanced IPC training module content that can be adapted and used by countries, in particular in settings with limited resources. The target audience for these modules will be IPC focal persons or health care professionals with at least basic IPC experience and competencies.

The objective of this project is to develop and publish (WHO web pages) a package of advanced IPC training modules in the form of- Materials to allow for training delivery by IPC professionals including PowerPoint slide sets, a trainer’s guide for each training module (including content reviewed by external experts and evaluated in a real-world training scenario) and a suite of case study materials and knowledge evaluation resources; Audiovisual and e-learning supporting materials of selected content.

The content for these advanced IPC training modules is currently being developed by WHO and a consortium of international institutions with extensive educational and implementation experience and expertise in developing countries. The materials will go through detailed expert revision and be adapted into e-learning package and other supporting tools. As part of the expert revision process, it is critical to pilot and evaluate the use of the training module content in a low-resource setting, incorporate the feedback received and review accordingly.

The data gathered from this evaluation will be used to strengthen and improve the course content, materials, timing, flow and suggested delivery strategies presented in the training modules. The training package is expected to be launched in late 2017.

Accordingly, at the above-mentioned international workshop on national IPC training programmes and curricula, Liberia presented their goals to further develop the IPC training programme as part of their strategic national vision.

Following the outbreak of Ebola virus disease, Liberia has taken concerted steps to improve IPC practices nationally and under the leadership of the Ministry of Health, Liberia has developed a strategic national vision for IPC and implemented basic IPC training and monitoring across all 15 counties.

At the workshop, it is disclosed that the Liberian delegation discussed the next steps for this training programme and worked through a potential action plan for setting up IPC and quality training programmes across its education system from pre-service to in-service and post-graduate. The current proposal is meant to provide some technical support to these plans; writes Lewis K. Glay 0886469835/lglay.inprofile@gmail.com

Atina Women Initiative Celebrates World Menstrual Hygiene Day

By Mafanta Kromah

 

A local NGO called Atina Women Initiative on May 28  celebrated the World Menstrual Hygiene Day with several schools in Monrovia.

Atina Women Initiative, which is a local group founded to empower less fortunate women through macro finance loan and conducting livelihood training celebrated the world Menstrual Hygiene Day with education on the understanding of menstrual circle.

The day which is celebrated May 28 every year is set aside to give awareness to women and girls on menstruation management.

The group celebrated the day by visiting several schools in Monrovia and its environment. The founder and Executive Director of the group Mrs. Muna Weah-Weah said, there was no other way to celebrate this day than visiting schools, sharing tips on menstrual management, and the distribution of sanitary pads to young school going girls.

In a special statement to some teenage school girls at the Peace Island Elementary, Junior & Senior High School, Mrs. Weah-Weah told them that their menstrual period should not be the reason for them not being in school.

She also told the students to stay in school and focus on the lesson because Liberia is depending on them for its development and progress.

Mrs. Weah-Weah also said it was so sad hearing from some students that they use cloth, leaves, among other things to manage the waste during the time of menstruation. After the distribution of the pads to the students, she told them to use it for the intended purpose and do not give it to any of their elderly female family members.

“You should not allow any boy to fool you to have sex with you at this age because it will damage your future and you should be like me who had my first child in my married home and was working also,” she cautioned the students.

In appreciation, the students lauded the group for its works over the years and for giving them the knowledge and understanding of the ways to manage their menstrual cycles and distributing menstrual pads among them.

Mental Illness Reaches Unimaginable Concerns; Liberia Deserves Modern Mental Health Strategy

 By Mafanta Kromah

There is an increase in the number of mentally ill persons in the country and has become a common illness that victimizes people of all ages, regardless of ethnicity, fraternity, religious affiliation and or status in life.

From childhood to adult age this problem cannot be ignored and allowed to permeate society without national government immediate intervention. This nation can no longer look the other way hoping that this pandemic will go away, especially given our recent problem with the deadly EBOLA crisis.

Given the current World Bank statistics, about 10% of the world’s population lives with mental illness, many of which is caused by depression. According to the Carter Center, 40% of the 4.5 million Liberians has symptoms of major depression and about 44% appeared to have post-traumatic stress disorders. It is also estimated that is close to 50-70% of women and girls were sexually assaulted during the civil war and about 11% have contemplated suicide. Due to the dearth of mental health services in the country, only a handful of persons with mental illness received treatment, says the report.

Looking at the history of Liberia over the years, cumulating into our recent violent civil war, it’s the professional opinions of medical practitioners that some of this madness is caused by the traumatic effect from the devastating 14 years of civil war that affected people throughout this nation. In some cases, the impact of visible and invisible factors can increase the stress levels of people leading to mental madness. This is even widespread due to the lack of professional interventions to provide services to those suspected of mental illness.

The alarming unemployment rate in Liberia, estimated between 60-70% is another contributing factor to mental illness in the nation. According to LIGIS report, about 70% of the Liberian population is unemployed and as a result, people find themselves engaged in unlawful and illegal activities such as drug use. In most cases, these unlawful and illegal activities result to mental problems, which, in some instances, lead some to commit suicide or heinous crimes against other people in the Country.

This situation is so alarming that it’s not limited to urban areas. Many in rural Liberia are said to be faced with mental health conditions that continue to tear families apart. Though there has been no established data, reports from rural Liberia indicates that some men are angrily killing family members, wives and innocent people over very small issues, that can easily be negotiated and settled by immediate interventions of elders and or leaders of these communities.

It’s also an established fact that unemployment which results in poverty is a risk factor for mental illness. Poverty reduces the ability of an individual to access productive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative services, thereby increasing their risks of morbidity, disability, and mortality. The stress of substance abuse associated with widespread poverty can also create problems for society and increase the risks of developing mental disorders.

Typical examples of this alarming situation have been documented in the form of reports from various media institutions in the Nation. It’s no secret that unemployment as a contributing factor has taken another trend in the Nation, where young, promising girls are prostituting themselves for survival. A recent report of a prominent young beauty queen going mad after sleeping with a strange Nigerian man is another example of how widespread is this situation.

Another factor associated with mental illness is birth trauma, especially amongst young girls who are not mentally and legally prepared and matured for childbirth. Medical practitioners have often opined that the damage to tissues and trauma associated with childbirths, along with long-term cognitive consequences which encompass both mother and the newly delivered child are major contributing factors to mental illness. These conditions, in addition to poverty usually affect young mothers, who are unable to cope with its impacts and most often end up using illegal substances as escape routes.

The effects of the use of some recreational drugs by young people in the country have also contributed to the increase in mental madness, especially amongst young people. As the usage of illicit drugs increases in the Country, the numbers of mentally ill persons are also on the rise, coupled with prostitution, human trafficking and a looming threat to the Liberian society as a whole. The effects of the use of some recreational drugs by young people in the country have also contributed to the increase in mental madness, especially amongst young people.

According to mental health science, the use of some form of recreational drugs and its impact on the brain, which makes one feel relaxed and high, also makes it difficult for users to remember things. The long-term effects and impacts causes long-term mental health problems, including schizophrenia, a very serious mental illness in a person that make a person thinks or behave abnormally and experience delusion, psychosis, and depression; a medical condition that make a person feel very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and unable to live in a normal society.

However, mental illness has become so alarming that Liberians are concern about the situation and want government immediate intervention, to create functioning mental health services, to cater to this growing pandemic. It’s estimated that 4 out of 10 young Liberians suffer some form of undiagnosed mental illness and this situation is on the rise across streets, cities, and towns in this Nation. In most cities, they are termed as “Zogos” in Liberia.

Given the statistics on the mental health situation in Liberia today, the Nation continues to suffer moderate to progressive mental disorders, mostly due to the trauma of war and the lack of decent mental health services in the Country. Many of the healthcare workers in the Nation lacked a basic understanding of mental illness, due to the lack of specific mental health curriculum and education in most, if not all institutions in the Nation.

The effects and impacts of this pandemic can be temporary or long-lasting depending on the national government’s response to this growing problem, especially if there is no urgent care and attention is given to mentally ill people; especially those on the streets of our cities, harassing and putting people lives at risk. It is believed that the only way to resolve the mental health situation in our country is to build modern mental recovery center that will promote education, socialization, and training, which will help mentally ill people to build better lives for themselves, gain empowerment, maintain independence, and be rehabilitated to earn acceptance within the Liberian society.

One notable government entity that could provide immediate relief is the Social Security Administration. While it’s a good business decision to construct high-end real estate properties in the Nation and rent to government institutions and private entities for future profits; the Government of Liberia should encourage the Social Security Administration to invest in the health and well-being of the people of this Nation, especially, mental health. This will help to reduce the number of mentally ill people on street corners in our cities and those impacted by mental illness caused by poverty in rural Liberia.

Though there is a tendency in Africa at large and Liberia is no exception, to ignore and brand mentally ill people as alcoholics and drug-users; neglected and left to survival on streets with their children. These mentally ill people and their family always face stigma in their various communities and there is a need for the Liberian Government to act and acknowledge the situation with policies to tackle and impact this growing threat.

The government through the Ministry of Education needs to bring the teachings and regulations as part of the primary, secondary and tertiary education curriculum as a long-term strategy to combat this pandemic.

This will help the young ones understand themselves, and reduce shame on society. This will help the next generation and save them from our generation experiences.

It’s hoped that this article and many others written in the past will help create awareness to the lack of appropriate services for mental illness and draw the attention of health authorities to the mental health crisis in the Country. If measures are not taken to aggressively tackle this growing pandemic and reduce or bring this situation to a manageable control, to keep our streets free and safe of people with mental madness, Liberia will face another serious problem which might drive future investors away.