LMHRA Public Awareness Team in Gbarnga, Bong County

Activities

Kakata City, Margibi County (Monday, January 25, 2021)

Activities

Kakata City, Margibi County (Monday, January 25, 2021)

The LMHRA Awareness and Radio Talk-show Team arrived in Kakata City, Margibi County, on Monday morning, January 25, 2021. The Team, which comprised of six persons: three persons from the Communications Unit (Abraham Kolleh Morris, Deputy Communications Manager; Jesse Gbotoe, Communications Officer and Mark S. Chea, Communications Officer), one of Liberia’s top Comedian, (Isaac Sunday Sieh, alias (Paul Flomo)) and two technical staff to include the Technical Advisor to the Managing Director, Dr. Flomoku G. Miller and Pharmacist Humphrey B. Taylor of the Evaluation and Registration Department.

In the early morning of January 25, 2021, at about 9a.m., the two technical staff, Dr. Miller, and Pharm. Taylor, along with the Deputy Communications Manager, Mr. Abraham Kolleh Morris, Sr., visited a local radio station, Radio Margibi 103.7 FM. It is located in the county’s capital, and it is one of the most popular and widely monitored stations in that part of the country. At Radio Margibi, the Team explained the danger of street peddling and the danger on the proliferation of substandard, and falsified medicines.

The two technical staff who appeared on the radio talk-show discussed a broad spectrum of issues with regards to the following:  Disabusing the minds of the public from purchasing medicines from street peddlers; the risks associated with purchasing from street peddlers; that street peddlers most of the time sell expired, falsified, substandard, or unregistered medicines.; and that those street peddlers are not trained healthcare providers, therefore they tend to misinform the public and that medicines in buckets, bags, or on market tables which may either come in direct contact with  extreme temperatures of sunlight, or absorption moisture as a result of increase humidity which negatively affects the stability of these medicines, thus becoming harmful and provide bad health outcome. All of these were explained as simple as possible to get the message across.

The Role of the LMHRA in the Area of Pharmaceutical Regulations

In response, the public also had the opportunity to call and ask questions, and also raise concerns. Many callers expressed appreciation to the LMHRA for the awareness, the exceptional work being done to mitigate street peddling, and also to ensure that affordable, safe, efficacious, and effective medicines and health products are always available on the Liberian market. Some callers stated that it was also important that the LMHRA continue to engage the public with such valuable information. Others said that the LMHRA needs to step up their strategy in combatting street peddling through more public awareness and inspections.

Immediately after the radio talk show, the team took to the main streets of Kakata, where street vendors, marketers, motorcyclists, pedestrians, etc. converged in their numbers to listen to public awareness messages from the campaign team on the danger of street peddling.

The team was mainly disseminating messages against the sales, purchase and usage of medicines sold by street peddlers, and also the danger associated with the usage of these medicines.

During the campaign, awareness flyers, stickers, and T-shirts bearing similar campaign messages were distributed to the public.

Spicing up the campaign, one of Liberia’s best comedians, Paul Flomo who was a part of the campaign team, presented the campaign message in simple terms through comedy.  

During the public awareness campaign on the main street of Kakata, a teenage boy who was seen selling in the open air, Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) and powder milk was arrested by the team, and his goods confiscated.

Gbarnga City, Bong County

Bong County was very strategic to the public awareness campaign in that it is situated in the central region of Liberia. This county is one of the commercial hubs of the country, and a major center for trading falsified, substandard, expired, and unregistered medicines and health products.

The two technical staff, Dr. Miller, and Pharm. Taylor, along with the Regional Manager for Bong, Nimba, and Lofa Counties, Pharmacist Sancee G. Gray, visited a local radio station, Hot 107.9FM located in Gbarnga; a subsidiary of Hot FM 107.9FM located on Broad Street in Monrovia.

The local radio station has the widest coverage in the county and is mostly monitored by citizens. Appearing on the morning show again, the two technical persons along with the Deputy Manager for Communications continued the propagation of similar messages with regards to what was disseminated in Kakata in relations to disabusing the citizenry from doing business with street peddlers and the negative effects substandard and falsified medicines and health products poses to health outcomes.

The public also had the opportunity to call-in and make contributions. Some of the callers made mention of the poor storage conditions of some pharmaceutical premises, and the need for LMHRA to visit hard-to-reach areas to propagate these messages.

Immediately after the radio talk show; again, the entire team converged at one of the major commercial centers in Gbarnga in the market square; where many citizens came out again to listen to the messages against street peddling and the danger associated with using substandard, and falsified medicines.  

The public awareness team also visited major street corners, market and communities to disseminate the awareness message.  Flyers, T-shirts and stickers were also distributed to people who attended the campaign. The Technical Advisor (Dr. Miller), Pharm. Taylor and Comedian Paul Flomo were also in attendance to answer questions from the bystanders, motorcyclists and marketers and provided further clarity.

Gompa City, (Ganta City), Nimba County

Nimba County is part of the northeastern region of Liberia.  It was one of the major priorities of the campaign team in that it is the second largest county in terms of population. With Ganta city, which is also called Gompa City being one of the major commercial centers in the northern region; is associated with porous border points with Guinea and the Ivory Coast. This contributes to the influx substandard and falsified medicines.

Upon entering Nimba, the awareness team conducted a consultative meeting with authorities of the county, to include the Superintendent, City Mayor of Ganta, and other stakeholders. The campaign team then converged at a central point in Gompa city, for the public awareness campaign. The team, like the other counties, propagated messages against street peddling and the danger associated with buying medicines from street vendors.

This was done via interactive discussions with people that gathered at the awareness sites. Additionally, the playing of LMHRA jingles, and discussions through comedy and simple Liberian English by Comedian Paul Flomo easily delivered the awareness message to the people of Gompa City. Similarly, awareness flyers, stickers, T-shirts with the awareness messages were also given out to the attendees.

The team also toured major street corners and communities in Ganta, further promulgating similar messages against street peddling, and the usages of falsified and substandard medicines and health products.

In Gompa city, the team also distributed flyers, stickers, and T-shirts to people in communities where the team visited.  Later during the day, Dr. Miller, Technical Advisor to the Managing Director and a technical staff supporting the campaign team paid a visit to a local radio station, also a subsidiary of Hot FM 107.9, located in Gompa City, Nimba County.

Dr. Miller had a 30 minute exclusive interview with that station concerning the discussions against street peddling and also the statutory functions of the LMHRA.

Challenges

However, several challenges were encountered during the campaign in the three counties:

One of the major challenges encountered was with the Public Address System (PA system). The output of the LMHRA PA system was extremely low, thus creating a serious breach in communication due to the PA system being outdated or old. This served as a major impediment to the campaign in that most people who converged at the first campaign site in Kakata city could barely understand the message. The team later negotiated to rent a new PA system so as to have the campaign objective achieved.

We were also challenged with securing popular sites to carry on the public awareness due to the team not initially meeting local county authorities in both Bong and Margibi Counties. So the public awareness was implemented on main streets, and that posed harm to bystanders due to movement of vehicles.

Owing to the messaging from the Technical Advisor, Pharmacist Taylor and Comedian Paul Flomo, the attendees clamor for more flyers, T-shirts and stickers.

Recommendations

While in the three counties, (Margibi, Bong, Nimba Counties), there were many recommendations generated from both the public interactions via the radio talk shows and in the field.; Recommendation were made that there should be Billboards carrying messages against street peddling erected in each of these three counties (Margibi, Bong, and Nimba) as well as other leeward counties and major towns and villages; that there should be jingles produced in the various vernaculars (dialects) and played on various local radio stations in these leeward counties; that LMHRA carry her awareness strategy to various towns and villages, for farmers and residents of these leeward counties to be safe; that the LMHRA should work towards assigning more inspectors and surveillance officers in these counties to curtail street peddling, and the confiscation of unregistered medicines and health products.;

The communication Unit recommends that, a new and sophisticated PA system be bought to ensure that messages promulgated by the awareness team be fully understood by commuters who will converge to listen to the message; that the LMHRA Facebook page be regularly maintained and boosted so as to also carry the message live every time the campaign team is on the field, that the LMHRA purchase a modern camera for the purpose of taking quality pictures and doing recordings during public awareness campaigns, that the LMHRA regularly have public awareness campaigns and radio talk shows in every part of the country so that the public will always be furnished with essential medicine information and that the hotline be made free-to-call so as to enable the citizenry access and report street peddlers and the illegal importation of pharmaceuticals through land borders.