From 23-25 May 2018, Eric Cheysson, chairman of La Chaîne de l’Espoir, travelled to Liberia with the Programmes Director and the local coordinator of La Chaîne de l’Espoir for the West Africa zone, on a mission to approach the authorities in charge of the mother and child health system.
A dire situation
Liberia’s public health system has been declining for more than thirty years. Following a 15-year civil war (1989-2003) that killed thousands of people in Liberia, the Ebola virus triggered an epidemic starting in 2014. This succession of disastrous episodes for the country further damaged the already very fragile health system.
This first trip has provided the opportunity to identify Liberia’s urgent needs in terms of public health and more specifically at the level of paediatric care. Children are the first victims of the lack of facilities or human resources capable of treating them (child mortality rate is 152.8 per 1,000). The country has 4.6 million inhabitants, with only one anaesthetist and five surgeons available for the entire population.
A necessary evolution
The total absence of any paediatric surgical facility is a major worry and therefore a priority established by local authorities. During this trip, several contacts have been established, in particular with the president George Weah and his spouse Clare Weah, who have clearly stated their determination to improve the country’s situation as regards paediatric surgery. In addition to this official meeting, an appointment was made with the management of the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monravia, the only country’s level-3 facility that opened in 1971. The director of the hospital, Jerry Brown, and his team stated their motivation to effect change.
As such, this first trip was an opportunity to identify the need for action in Liberia. La Chaîne de l’Espoir intends to do so and will submit a project for the creation of a paediatric surgery unit to answer the many challenges related to mother and child health and to strengthen the very rudimentary surgery care currently provided in Monravia.