Liberia has 5,000 full-time or part-time health workers and 51 Liberian doctors to cater to a population of 3.8 million, according to the 2006 health survey. That is equivalent to about 76,000 civilians being attended to by 1 doctor.
Most of the hospitals, clinics and equipment were destroyed due to its 14 years of civil conflict from 1989 all the way until 2003. The strengthening of the health sector faced financial problems. The government used only 16.8% of the total health expenditure in the country.
Liberia has heavily relied on the international community for health infrastructure and aid. International relief organizations assisted the government to rebuild health facilities and provide essential health care for its citizens. The World Health Organization (WHO) donated equipment and helped provide and assist in vaccinating the population to prevent the spreading of many communicable disease.
The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) funded 160 million US dollars to improve the health care system and increase the quality of immunization services in Liberia. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization, helped Liberia by operating free hospitals right after the civil war (2003) and treated more than 20,000 women and children per year.
As part of a wider regional Ebola outbreak this year, Liberia has suffered 1 779 deaths from Ebola as of September 22nd 2014. Ebola was first reported in Liberia in Lofa and Nimba counties in late March.
A considerable amount of the population suffers from mental illnesses or were mentally or physically traumatized, due to 14 years of intense civil conflict. A study by the American Medical Association (AMA) in 2008 had showed that a staggering 40% of adults had shown symptoms of major depressive disorders. 44% of adults also had symptoms of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder.
There was only one psychiatrist in the country at the time. It is impossible for 1 psychiatrist to be able to tend to over 1 million victims. In addition, E. S. Grant Mental Health Hospital was the only hospital for patients with mental illness. The hospital only had 80 beds, which left almost all those with traumatization unattended for.
In December 2009, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) news reported that 45% of Liberian children suffer from varying forms of malnutrition. A nutrition adviser from UNICEF told IRIN that malnutrition results in learning deficiencies, which will affect the economy in the future.
This results in a vicious cycle, as the country continuously grows poorer and poorer as a result of increasing malnutrition. UNICEF reports that if the status of Liberia’s health does not get better, the country will lose $130 million in economic development within the coming 8 years.
UNICEF and Non-Governmental Organizations, or NGOs, are working with the Ministry of Health to increase the awareness malnutrition, and make it a top priority of the country. Providing nutrition services is a major priority for the government, and it forms an important part of the National Health Policy.
In 2008, the health ministry developed a nutrition policy, which became a good start from the service’s promise. With this new policy, the health ministry aims to reduce the 39% chronic malnutrition rate by one-third by 2011, and fix one of the greatest issues of Liberia.