Strengthening Liberia’s Multisectoral Collaboration: Insights from the One Health RCCE Strategy Session

At the heart of Liberia’s recent two-day working session (June 21 – 22, 2024), held at the MUREX Plaza Hotel on 10th Street Sinkor in Monrovia, was a powerful demonstration of multisectoral collaboration. The Liberia One Health Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) Technical Working Group’s meeting was not only about developing a strategic framework but also about building bridges across diverse sectors to enhance the nation’s resilience against health threats.

This event, supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) through its Regional Programme Support to Pandemic Prevention (RPPP) in the ECOWAS region, brought together experts from human health, animal health, environmental health, civil society organizations, the media, and both local and international non-governmental organizations. The aim was clear: foster a comprehensive, integrative approach to health communication and community engagement that transcends traditional boundaries.

A Convergence of Diverse Expertise

Participants from various fields shared their unique perspectives and expertise, highlighting the interconnectedness of human, animal, and environmental health. Tennema Coleman, an environmental health specialist, remarked, “This session has provided an opportunity for us to break down silos and collaborate more effectively. The environmental perspective is crucial in understanding the full picture of health risks and how to mitigate them.”

Augustus Fahnbulleh, Director of Plant Quarantine at the Ministry of Agriculture echoed this sentiment, emphasizing the importance of animal health in the broader context of public health. “Zoonotic diseases, which can be transmitted from animals to humans, are a significant concern. Our collaboration here ensures that we are not working in isolation but as part of a unified effort to address these threats comprehensively,” he said.

Augustine Koryon spoke on behalf of the GIZ: “Our support for the Liberia One Health RCCE Technical Working Group’s workshop underscores the importance of multisectoral collaboration in enhancing pandemic prevention and response capabilities. We are proud to be part of this initiative, which not only strengthens Liberia’s health system but also contributes to the overall health security of the ECOWAS region.”

Engaging Civil Society

A standout feature of the session was the active involvement of civil society organizations and media representatives. Their participation ensured that the voices and concerns of local communities were heard and integrated into the strategy development process. “Community engagement is at the core of effective health communication,” noted Sarah Brown, a representative from a local NGO.

Key Informant Interviews: A Foundation for Strategy

The presentation of findings from key informant interviews (KII) conducted by the strategy consultant was a critical component of the session. These interviews provided invaluable insights into the current landscape of risk communication and community engagement in Liberia. By validating these findings with a diverse group of stakeholders, the session ensured that the final strategy would be grounded in real-world experiences and needs.

Chester Allen Smith, Chairperson of the Liberia One Health RCCE Technical Working Group, highlighted the significance of this multisectoral approach in his closing remarks. “Our strength lies in our diversity. By bringing together experts from various fields and sectors, we are creating a holistic and robust strategy that will significantly enhance our ability to respond to health threats.”

The One Health approach is a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary strategy that recognizes the interconnection between humans, animals, and the environment. It aims to achieve optimal health outcomes by fostering cooperation across various disciplines and sectors.

Looking Forward: A Unified Effort for Health Resilience

As the session concluded, the sense of unity and shared purpose among the participants was palpable. The collaborative spirit fostered during these two days is expected to carry forward into the finalization and implementation of the One Health RCCE Strategy, ensuring a coordinated and effective approach to health communication and community engagement in Liberia.

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