Liberia’s government is making progress in rebuilding the country’s health system. And a key part of this is launching the National Eye Health Policy (2022-2032) to ensure that eye health is considered a priority.
Over the past decades, civil war and political unrest both contributed to weakening Liberia’s health system, with Ebola having further devastating effects. But as the country progressed towards full economic recovery after the Ebola epidemic, the COVID-19 pandemic further shrunk the economy and negatively impacted the already weak health system.
At this time, the health system was entirely dependent on donor support and these crises majorly affected the ability of these stakeholders to deliver health services. These included eye care, the training and equitable distribution of health care workers and procurement and distribution of equipment, medication and consumables.
But today, as Liberia rebuilds, work supported and driven by different stakeholders is beginning to improve the country’s health care system. At Sightsavers, we’ve been supporting eye health programmes in Liberia for more than 20 years and working to strengthen the health system alongside the Ministry of Health.
Sustainability is at the forefront of our minds when we design and implement our work. By working with government institutions, we ensure they have ownership and can carry the work forward in the long-term.
However, many external stakeholder organisations began their work independently and were not working cohesively with each other and the government because there wasn’t a national strategic document to drive the delivery of eye health services in the country. This resulted in the delivery of standalone eye health programmes that are not sustainable and worked outside the health system.
Therefore, a policy direction was desperately needed. In 2021, we began supporting the Ministry of Health to develop the National Eye Health Policy. The introduction of this policy means that any stakeholder working in Liberia will have clear directions to work under. The policy also outlines the key areas that we must address and prioritise.
Nazaradden Ibrahim is Sightsavers’ global technical lead for eye health in West Africa.