Before 2014, one out of 100 women died in childbirth. Half of all tuberculosis patients died. And fewer than 200 doctors served 4.3 million citizens. (In the United States, some 10,000 doctors serve that many citizens.) Then the Ebola epidemic struck and health care went from horrible to almost non-existent.
Partners In Health began working in Liberia at the invitation of the Ministry of Health in November 2014. Most of our efforts were focused on responding to Ebola in Maryland County, a 20-hour drive south from the capital of Monrovia. We supported two Ebola treatment units and three community care centers, and taught teachers and community members new techniques to slow the spread of infections.
Since Ebola came under control in Liberia in March 2015, PIH has focused on helping rebuild the health system, primarily for a population of roughly 100,000 in Maryland County.
Using the accompaniment approach that has proven successful in Haiti, Rwanda, and elsewhere, we’re collaborating with the government to guide and help patients through every step of treatments. Community health workers meet people in their homes, addressing basic health concerns and helping them find care, if need be.
We are also staffing and overseeing two facilities in Maryland County. Clinicians are addressing the high rates of maternal mortality and tuberculosis at “New Pleebo” Health Center, a 24-hour clinic, and at nearby J.J. Dossen Memorial Hospital, a referral hospital. We extensively refurbished both of these in 2015.
To ensure that facilities have the staff they need in perpetuity, a handful of PIH experts, in conjunction with professors at Harvard School of Public Health, act as technical advisors to Tubman University, a school that offers the only public nursing program in Liberia.
Lastly, to help increase the quality of care throughout southern Liberia, we’re leading trainings in two neighboring counties—covering topics such as when to don protective suits, how to safely dispose of medical waste, and the best methods for ensuring clear communication and patient privacy.
In the capital city of Monrovia, we refurbished a tuberculosis hospital that was all but abandoned during the Ebola epidemic, and we currently help treat patients there, many of whom have drug-resistant forms of the disease.