- Liberia declared a Polio Free Country
- Updating of Inter-Agency Contingency Plans for Possible Influx of Refugees
- Voluntary Repatriation of Liberian Refugees
Polio Eradication Initiative (PEI) activities in Liberia
The World Health Organisation (WHO) in October 2008 declared Liberia a polio free country. This is the outcome of successful efforts to eradicate polio in the country, which started in 1999 focusing on strategies like maintaining high routine immunization coverage, conducting high quality Supplemental Immunization Activities (SIAs) and maintaining a strong surveillance system.
Supplemental Immunization Activities
Since the inception of PEI in 1999, Liberia has conducted about 18 rounds of polio National Immunization Days (NIDs) with some remarkable success. Many of these NIDs were synchronized with all other countries in West and in some cases Central Africa. The last of these polio NIDs were conducted in 2005, when four rounds were carried out in March, April, October and November 2005. Although the reported coverage varied, on the whole most counties achieved the target of at least 80% coverage.
Routine immunization suffered just like many other programs in health during the period of the second wave of civil unrest from 1999 to 2003 in the country. However, since the return of peace in 2003, rapid progress has been achieved and every effort is being made to maintain and improve on the level of coverage so far attained.
Surveillance for Acute Flaccid Paralysis (AFP) was established in 1999. Certification standard polio surveillance was maintained for the most part. The last virologically confirmed case of polio was reported in 1999. Since then no confirmed case of wild polio has been detected in Liberia. During the unrest there were no possibilities for surveillance, but after 2003 the surveillance activities were renewed. The various National Polio Eradication committees namely, National Certification Committee (NCC), National Polio Expert Committee (NPEC) and the National Task Force on Laboratory containment (NTF) have all been established and are functional. In 2007 discussions started and in early 2008 the process was started to declare Liberia a polio free country. Because of the satisfactory performance of the PEI activities in Liberia, the country had been invited by WHO to present its documentation for Polio-Free certification to the African Regional Certification Commission (ARCC) and in October this year, Liberia was declared a polio free country. The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare has made a proposal to the President of Liberia to announce this officially.
Updating Inter-Agency Contingency Plans for possible influx of refugees
The continued postponement of the Côte d'Ivoire elections, and the prevailing unpredictable political and socio-economic situation in Guinea, could lead to the deterioration of the security situation in both countries, possibly causing significant population movements of civilians into neighbouring countries including Liberia. In view of above, a meeting was held on 5 November to update the two Inter-Agency Contingency Plans for possible influx of refugees/ third country nationals/ returnees into Liberia from Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire respectively. The meeting was co-chaired by UNHCR and the Liberia Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Commission (LRRRC) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and attended by representatives from UN agencies, NGOs, ICRC and relevant sections of UNMIL. Following UNMIL/JMAC's security briefing on the situation in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire, participants discussed possible scenarios, how the situation might develop, and what interventions would be made in the event of a refugee/ IDP influx. It was decided that further input would be sought from counterparts in the border counties for updates on commitments and possible contributions in the response to the influx. The updated documents are expected to be finalized by 14 November 2008.
Voluntary Repatriation of Liberian Refugees
A total of 141 Liberian refugees were repatriated from Ghana on the UNMIL regular flight during the week of 30 October - 5 November 2008. Since the resumption of the voluntary repatriation of Liberian refugees in April this year, a total of 8,710 (8,090 from Ghana, 257 from Guinea, 237 from Nigeria, 100 from Sierra Leone, 14 from Côte d'Ivoire, 9 from the Gambia & 3 from Senegal) have returned to Liberia.
According to UNHCR, since the start of the initial voluntary repatriation programme since 1 October 2004, most of the returnees have settled in Lofa (60,758), Montserrado (21,662), Nimba (10,250) and Maryland Counties (10,087).