“Today, 9 May 2015, WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission,” The World Health Organization or WHO’s statement read by its acting country directing to Liberia Dr. Alex Ntale Gasasira said, exactly 42 days after the last laboratory-confirmed deceased Ebola victim was buried on 28 March 2015.
At the peak of the Ebola transmission during August and September 2014, the WHO recalled that Liberia was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week; saying, “Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976.”
The outbreak killed 4,716 victims in Liberia; and out of that number, at least 189 health workers died while providing health care to infected persons here.
The WHO gave credit to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for her “swift and sometimes tough decisions, frequent public communications, and presence at outbreak sites,” as her leadership regarded the outbreak as a threat to the nation’s “economic and social fabric.”
After the WHO declared Liberia Ebola-freed at the Command Center in Monrovia, President Sirleaf described the period of the crisis as a “terrifying and frightening moment.”
She said Liberia will share whatever it has, including expertise with neighboring countries – Guinea and Sierra Leone – two of the West African states that were among the three worst affected in what the WHO terms the “largest, longest, and most complex outbreak” since Ebola emerged in 1976.
Similarly as President Sirleaf toured Ebola Treatment Units or ETUs in Montserrado and other counties where cases were reported, she equally visited major treatment units in and around Monrovia on Saturday to appreciate health workers, including a house in Banjor where 11 persons died of Ebola.
Health Minister-designate, Dr. Bernice Dahn, who was riding on a bus with the President, told health workers at ETUs that just a day before the WHO declared Liberia Ebola-freed, President Sirleaf had signed four months hazard benefits for health workers, covering private health workers.
Liberia’s Foreign Minister Mr. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan told journalists at the WHO-run Island Clinic ETU that the country was now going to ask other nations to now lift restrictions against Liberia because “Ebola is gone.”
Mr. Ngafuan said excluding some friendly countries and partners, some countries have since the outbreak in West Africa, denied travels and visa issuance to people coming from the region including Liberia, in spite of UN, WHO and AU’s resolution against such restrictions and stigmatization of affected states.
Having toured several health institutions, including ELWA One and Two, Catholic Hospital, the Government referral hospital John F. Kennedy Medical Center, Redemption Hospital and the Island Clinic ETU, among others, President Sirleaf visited Banjor, where Madam Dudu Kromah narrated how a single case spread into their house and killed 11 persons.
She said one of their brothers, who had been working as a herbalist, chose to treat a girl he believed had been poisoned during some alleged feast in the rural areas.
Madam Kromah, who is of the Islamic faith, told President Sirleaf that the herbalist equally died after he and two other men secretly buried the girl he was treating at night.
The herbalist had reportedly concealed his work to avoid the household from being quarantined by government.
Madam Kromah said the household had only two survivors – a teenage a girl and a baby boy.
Meanwhile, to mark the country’s historic achievement, the Executive Mansion says an official day of celebration and thanksgiving takes place at the Centennial Memorial Pavilion in Monrovia today Monday, May 11, 2015 at which time President Sirleaf will officially be presented the WHO Declaration.
The President’s office had urged Christians to pray for the souls of those departed due to the Ebola virus on Sunday, May 10; and Islamic prayers are also being planned for Friday, May 15, to the memory of members of the Muslim community, who succumbed to the virus.
The President of Togo and ECOWAS’ head of the region’s Ebola Virus Disease Response and Eradication Process, Faure Essozimna Gnassingbe is expected to join President Sirleaf at today’s program.
Others expected to grace the occasion include the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Kadré Desiré Ouedraogo, Ghanaian Foreign Minister, Hanna Tetteh, and Nigeria’s Health Minister, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, among others.
By Winston W. Parley – Edited by Jonathan Brown