The Nigerian medical personnel upon arrival at the RIA
Seventy four (74) Nigerian nurses and doctors arrived in Liberia last on Friday to beef up the African Union’s Ebola response in Liberia.
According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill, Monrovia, the Nigerian healthcare workers, predominantly female nurses, are to staff Ebola Treatment Units or ETU’s in Liberia’s interior, where there are pockets of outbreak of the deadly disease.
Major General Dr. Julius F. Oketta, head of the African Union Support to Ebola in West Africa or ASEOWA said the Nigerian team’s arrival is in continuation of African solidarity. According to him, member states have resolved to fight Ebola in the three worst affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
M/G, Dr. Oketta said the team was in Liberia to respond to the new trend the virus has taken in Liberia from the capital, Monrovia to towns and villages in the country’s interior, as well as strengthening its public healthcare system.
“We have so many hotspots of Ebola and we are going to head to these hotspots right away across the country,” the ASOEWA Head of Mission noted. Dr. Oketta disclosed that the medical team is not only here to fight Ebola, but to also reinforce the public health services in Liberia, naming the John F. Kennedy Hospital in Monrovia, where AU Mission has deployed six doctors, while revealing more doctors from the arriving team will join six others already there to work in other critically needed areas. “What the government wants are what we want- to make sure the speed of the disease of the infection and, eventually the disappearance must be enhanced by deploying more personnel,” Major Oketta said.
On hand to welcome the team of Nigerian medical personnel at the Roberts International Airport were Nigerian Ambassador to Liberia, Chigozie Obi-Nnadozie, as well as Liberia’s Chief of Protocol Rufus Neuville, among others. Ambassador Obi-Nnadozie is quoted by the Foreign Ministry as saying she was excited to receive the team, disclosing that Nigeria was not only making financial contribution, but human resources too.
“I want to thank you all for volunteering to help our brothers and sisters here in Liberia and help the government and people in general. This is the African spirit you are showing, this is the Nigerian spirit”, she said to the team.
Chief of Protocol Rufus Neuville also added: “We have been fighting already, and as I look in your faces I see nothing but medical warriors. We are finally convinced that Ebola is on the run.” Meanwhile, the Nigerian Embassy, on Friday, evening held a welcome reception and dinner in honor of the medical team.
Speaking at the dinner, Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan expressed gratitude on behalf of Her Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the Government and People of Liberia to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, the Government and People of Nigeria for the solidarity Liberia has received from Nigeria.
Minister Ngafuan further noted that the occasion was unique because Liberia was welcoming Nigeria’s health personnel, saying because of the political and military security problem Liberia faced in the past, Nigeria still has peacekeeping forces in Liberia, which have been helping to keep peace on the security front. Minister Ngafuan revealed that the Federal Republic of Nigeria has one of the largest deployments of personnel here to help keep peace in Liberia.
“Greater love has no man than the one who lays down his life for his friends,” he said, noting “Nigerians laid down their lives for Liberia during the Liberian civil crisis and today Nigeria is here with a health keeping force to help us fight this deadly Ebola virus. Nigeria is coming to us while others are leaving us, this is evident of true partnership.”
The Foreign Minister stressed that most Liberians have died from other curable diseases because of Ebola and will be grateful for every life that will be saved by the Nigerian health team, adding that every death is a Liberian death and every life saved is a Liberian life.
He informed the Nigerians that by this week, he will be at the ECOWAS Summit in Abuja, Nigeria where he will have the opportunity to express the gratitude of the Liberian Government and People to the Nigerian Government and People on the Nigerian soil. Earlier at the dinner, Nigerian Ambassador Obi-Nnadozie expressed her delightfulness for the gathering to celebrate a milestone in Nigeria-Liberia relation.
Ambassador Obi-Nnadozie noted that she was happy because Nigeria has manifested the care and love that country has for Liberia, indicating that the medical volunteers from Nigeria were here to help kick out Ebola from Liberia, as most of them were experienced in the fight against Ebola. “They kicked out Ebola from Nigeria and are here to tell Liberians their success story through actions.”
Several members of the cabinet were in attendance at the welcome dinner, including the Ministers of Internal Affairs, Gender, Agriculture, as well as former Education Minister Etmonia Tarpeh, among other high profiled guests. Similarly, neighboring Sierra Leone expects to also receive a Nigerian medical team of 100 personnel to serve under ASEOWA to combat the virus.