The burden of mental, neurological, and substance abuse (MNS) disorders in Liberia stems in part from the layered effects of civil war, pandemic health crises (Ebola in 2014-15 and currently COVID-19), and widespread poverty, vulnerability, and drug use—reflected by an almost 40% increase between 2007 and 2017 in the burden of disability caused by depressive disorders[1].

Several mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) initiatives are currently underway in Liberia, with support from external donor, technical, and implementing partners. However, there is a need for all stakeholders to develop a shared vision for health system strengthening (HSS) for MHPSS.

On December 16, 2020, the Health Systems Strengthening Accelerator will launch a virtual multisector co-creation process aimed at addressing key barriers to advancing HSS for MHPSS in Liberia. This scope of work is a part of a global activity, funded by USAID’s Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI), that is designed to support the integration and strengthening of MHPSS services in the health systems of post-conflict low- and middle-income countries. 

The co-creation workshop is expected to lay the groundwork for the Accelerator’s leadership capacity building support in Liberia. The participatory workshop will convene key health system stakeholders to discuss priority “HSS for MHPSS” entry points identified by the Accelerator, including:

  • Enhancing the capacity and leadership of the Ministry of Health Mental Health Unit for HSS-for-MHPSS in substantive SOW areas
  • Supporting the establishment of step-down roles and responsibilities for implementing the National Mental Health policy
  • Strengthening routine systems for continuous training and supervision of MHPSS workers and organizing them for sustained professionalization and advocacy to ensure availability of essential mental health-related medicines
  • Aligning the community programming components of the MHPSS strategy with the mental health module of the community health strategy, including policy advice from innovative models in other settings.

Through this activity, the Accelerator will prioritize strengthening multiple key health system functions at the national, community, and primary health care levels in order to scale-up MHPSS services. Accelerator support will be country-led and align with expressed country needs and demand to lower the prevalence and burden of mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorders.

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[1] IHME: Global Burden of Disease, Liberia Country Profile: What health problems cause the most disability? Top 10 causes of years lived with disability (YLDs) in 2017 and percent change, 2007-2017, all ages, number.