Stakeholders Call For More Transparency in Public Health Sector -Stress the Importance of the Media in the Process

Stakeholders at the one day coalition engagement meeting held on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, in Monrovia, organized by BudGiT, a civil society group with funding from its partners have called for more transparency in the public health sector centering around vaccine equity during the ongoing fight against the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country and stressed that the media has a very critical role to play in driving the process.

Addressing the participants on the objectives of the engagement meeting, Abraham Varney, Country Lead for BudGiT Liberia said that African governments’ response to Covid-19 has been characterized by instances of mismanagement, waste and blatant corruption, stressing that issues such as unlawful procurement, political use of monetary and other reliefs, and the diversion of funds have led many communities to deal with the hardship of the pandemic in economic and social isolation.

He said this has further affected citizens’ trust in government, reproduce social divisions, and increased in inequality, leaving countries in a poor position to promote economic recovery. He said to address this, the covid 19 transparency and accountability in Africa project(CTAP), commissioned as a civil society led effort involving BudGiT Foundation and Connected Development(CODE) to bolster citizens’ engagement and promote change in the ways the government used public resources and increase the capacity of governments to meet people’s needs.

“BudGiT Foundation is a civil-tech firm raising standards of transparency, citizens engagement and accountability in public finance. Following the emergence of a devastating global pandemic, governments scramble to address the scourge for more needs to be done to ensure they are accountable in the way funds are spent in managing the disease. Therefore, BudGiT in collaboration with Connected Development (CODE) has embarked upon a donor funded covid 19 transparency and accountability project(CTAP), concerned with advocating for accountability, open governance, strengthening civic awareness and ensuring governments’ use covid 19 intervention fund transparently”, he said

Varney said CTAP is a collaboration between BudGiT, Connected Development (CODE). Global Integrity, as well as partners in 8 African countries, namely, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. He said under CTAP phase one, these partners used a combination of approaches to generate information on how covid 19 funds were used by governments and leveraged that information to advocate and collaborate with governments to bring about change.

“In CTAP Phase II, these partners will work with diverse stakeholders including government and communities to institute mechanism for health sector accountability, foster effective and equitable covid 19 vaccine distribution and mount effective advocacy that mainstreams health sector’s best practices”, he said.

At the well attended meeting which was attended by representatives from civil societies, health institutions especially from the government, community based organizations, media institutions, health practitioners, among others panel discussions were held followed by questions and answers from the audience.

Madam Musu Moore who represented the John F. Kennedy Hospital and made a presentation on the topic, Covid 19 Myth and How to Overcome it to Increase Vaccine Acceptance, said that the perception out there about the efficiency of the vaccine was poor, first starting from the point where the some people believe that the virus does not even exist and that has affected the low administration of the doses in the country.

She said the country has been using the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine and the Oxford and AstraZeneca Vaccine and what most often the feedbacks they get from the citizens are that there are side effects such as dizziness, weakness of the body and vomiting but they have been advising those who experience such to come forward for prescribed treatment.

She noted that more information needs to get to the public about the efficacy of the vaccine as well as to allay fears from the people of the unfounded reportage of side effects that cause serious ailments from taking the vaccine.

Also speaking at the meeting, the President of the Female Journalists Association of Liberia (FEJAL) Madam Siatta S. Johnson who spoke on the topic The Role of the Media in Promoting Health Sector Transparency said that since the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic the media has been very effective in joining other stakeholders to combat the spread of the disease in the country.

She said that the challenges have been with the secrecy in which information surrendering funding and other information have been exhibited by those who are in charge of policy and programs from the public space. She said that the health sector needs to be robust in giving out information because it is critical in allaying misconceptions about what goes on during a crisis and mentioned that citizens have not been too enthusiastic and receptive about the vaccine because not much information has been said about the vaccine.

She called on the health authorities to turn a new leaf and work with the media institutions with a clear conscience void of secrecy in order to promote transparency in the sector.

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