CHAL is the result of coincidence of experiences of its founding members.
The medical authorities of four hospitals belonging to mainstream Christian denominations of Liberia (Lutheran, Episcopal, Methodist and ELWA (SIM) realized in the early 1970s that delivery time and costs of their drugs and medical supplies were significantly reduced if they procured together in bulk. The overwhelming advantages in their newly discovered scheme quickly propelled the four hospitals (Curran Lutheran, Phebe, Ganta United Methodist and ELWA) toward the formation of the Christian Health Association of Liberia in 1975.
Presently, CHAL has several health (wholistic health) programs in 13 of the 15 counties in Liberia. Amongst other health-related programs, there is Reconciliation and Healing Program that deals with training and counseling, peace education, conflict resolution, mediation, violent and peace related issues.
The original constitution and by-laws of the Association approved a structure that is upheld to date despite some amendments and revision. The supreme body of CHAL is the Annual General Meeting (AGM) which comprises representation of all categories of membership. The AGM meets once a year. It has the mandate to:
- Set policies and guidelines on which CHAL operates
- Deliberate on reports of officers.
- Do assessment and impose on membership for the purpose of financing any program and other undertakings of the Association
- Exercise its power to impeach any elected officer when the need arises
- Elect officers of the AGM
The AGM also conducts a mid-year meeting each year at which scientific and any relevant issues are deliberated.
Officers elected by the AGM are the President, Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer. Each category of membership has the responsibility to elect its representatives to the Board of Directors which is the second level in the structure of the Association. The Board is headed by the President of the AGM along with the Vice President and Secretary/Treasurer as subordinate officers.
Among many duties of the Board is the oversight of the CHAL Secretariat, the third level of the structure of the Association. The head of the Secretariat (Executive Director) is appointed by the Board along with the Financial and Program Managers. Coordinators of program activities are appointed by the Executive Director with the approval of the Board.
Initial services of CHAL were curative in nature. They were based on procurement of drugs and related-medical supplies intended for use in population catchment areas of member institutions. By this time CHAL was also able to secure sponsorship for procurement of essential drugs which were supplied to CHAL members under a revolving fund scheme.
In barely two years of its existence, CHAL, through its hospitals, began recognizing from patient records the recurrence of common infectious diseases. Epidemiological observations soon pointed to the need to incorporate preventive activities with on-going curative ones thereby drawing in community inhabitants as essential players. Consequently, an in-service bureau to the association was established for training personnel already in the employ of member health institutions and production of training and public education materials. So highly augmenting was CHAL’s effort to Government’s that USAID volunteered to assist Liberia’s health sector through the Association to the tone of more than a million United States dollars in the 1980’s. By the inception of the civil crisis CHAL was actively collaborating with Government in its immunization program producing posters on childhood vaccine-preventable diseases and doing active field vaccinations.
The civil strife did not deter CHAL from rendering humanitarian services. So strong was and still is the Association’s commitment to its objectives that its administrative office was split in three to cater to languishing and desperate persons across military divides of Liberia. Distribution of relief supplies and provision of safe-drinking water through well construction were among CHAL’s urgent considerations. Subsequently, trauma healing, reconciliation, family life programs, HIV/AIDS and STI, Safe Motherhood and Onchocerciasis were undertaken as donors saw CHAL to be the local health organization with the requisite experience through whom they could work.
During low periods in the war CHAL took projects to communities as Secretariat felt the visible needs among the people. But ever since the end of the crisis, the Secretariat reverted to its methodology of community enabling wherein the community identifies its needs and presents same to the CHAL member health institution in whose catchment area the community falls. The member institution, along with community input, submits an appeal for assistance to CHAL Secretariat. The secretariat prepares a project proposal and seeks donors support.
Impact of CHAL’s Activities on Health Care in Liberia
The role of CHAL and impact it has made on the health care system of Liberia cannot be overemphasized. Human resource development through its many training programs before, during and after the war leaves a core of dependable health workers at many health institutional and community levels. The association fielded as the only local health organization catering to persons in extreme needs on all sides of the military strata during the heat of the crisis, thereby saving lives. In normal times CHAL would boast of nearly 40 percent of health services rendered in Liberia with its existence in twelve of the fifteen counties. CHAL takes to credit the pioneer of trauma healing and reconciliation to cater to victims (mainly women and children) of the civil war when she was sponsored by the Mennonite Board of Missions in 1991. The exercise continues today both at CHAL itself and in other institutions whose trauma healing staff are products of CHAL.
Out of this came the famous Student Palaver Management program which has reduced conflict settling burden on school administrations as students become skilled in nonviolent resolution to misunderstandings and conflicts on school campuses.
HIV/AIDS projects in River Cess, River Gee, Maryland, Grand Bassa and Lofa Counties provided not only mass awareness for inhabitants of these counties but facilities for persons to become aware of their HIV status.
A huge vacuum was left in the national onchocerciasis program when the project was transferred from CHAL to the Ministry of Health. Ivermectin coverage level for counties dropped significantly from where CHAL left it.
In target communities of several counties where CHAL has conducted safe motherhood projects services of trained traditional midwives are ch ecks on danger to lives of pregnant women and infants. Community inhabitants themselves have been empowered with knowledge that has changed attitudes and behavior in health matters.
Objectives of CHAL as an institution are as follows:
- Promote and provide the highest standard of wholistic Christian health care services to the people in Liberia.
- Coordinate the efforts of members in addressing the health (wholistic health) needs of the People in Liberia.
- Provide a forum and network through which members can exchange ideas and information, as well as resources among and between themselves on the health issues and problems facing the People in Liberia.
- Cooperate and collaborate with the Government and other organizations for the purpose of gathering and sharing information, planning, programming and implementing health activities as well as sharing resources in these endeavors and;
- Raise funds locally and internationally, acquire and use material, machines and other resources and to do all things that are legal particularly for a non-profit organization in pursuit of our (CHAL) mission and objectives.