Leadership in a Time of Ebola

“When I arrived in Liberia in early 2014,” says Kwabena Larbi, Senior Technical Advisor with the National Malaria Control Program (NMCP), “I found there were a lot of malaria partners—the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), Global Fund, international organizations, lots of NGOs… Each was more or less doing their own thing.”

Local NMCP partners deliver mosquito nets in Liberia during the Ebola epidemic. (Photo: Kwabena Larbi)

Hired to assist the NMCP improve its leadership, management, and governance of the sector, Larbi says, “I first set out to sell the idea that it’s better to coordinate, sit around one table, so that everybody knows who’s doing what—and where there might be either duplication or possible synergies.”

Kwabena helped the NMCP set up and lead working groups to focus on net distribution, drug distribution, procurement and other areas. Through training and coaching in leadership, management, and governance skills, he was also methodically building the capacity of the NMCP to lead the country’s malaria efforts to reach its targets.

Then, just before a planned nationwide mosquito net distribution, the Ebola crisis broke out in Liberia.

Because of ensuing staff and vehicle shortages, NMCP partners had to put the nets in storage.

“So when the time came to distribute the nets,” Larbi recalls, “we had no money to distribute them. All the money had been spent in storage.”

Finding more funding at that point would have been daunting. But at one of the now regular coordinating meetings, “the World Food Programme (WFP) representative said, ‘We can help…we have the logistics and the means …as part of our campaign to move Ebola materials to health facilities in the districts.’”

WFP then transported all 2.8 million mosquito nets, free of charge, from the capital to the districts. From there, the NMCP and local partners were able to distribute them to every household in the country.

Larbi recounts the episode in this video:

Read how Management Sciences for Health (MSH) helped lead Ebola and other critical efforts at the same time.

Kwabena Larbi and senior technical advisors in six other countries are funded with support from the U.S. Government Global Fund technical assistance set aside managed by PMI through the U.S. Agency for International Development-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project, under the LMG Project’s NMCP Capacity Building project.

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