President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has expressed gratitude to the international community for standing by Liberia in the wake of the deadly disease.
“We want to pay tribute to our African brothers and sisters, to the countries that stood by us and came to our rescue when everything seemed to be lost”, President Sirleaf expressed on Monday, 26 January when she delivered her Annual Message on the State of the Republic before the Liberian Legislature.
Liberia’s first case of Ebola, she said, was recorded on March 30, 2014 in Foya, Lofa County, and that due to the level of cross border movements, the virus spread quickly in the northern county and then to Margibi with a cross over by a market woman.
She recalled that by last June, the virus had escalated as cases spread throughout Lofa and other counties as well, and June 17, cases were officially reported in Montserrado, including the crowded communities in Monrovia where a third of the country’s population resides, saying, “The disease rapidly became an epidemic spreading to all counties in different intensity, the most severe in Monrovia.”
The Liberian leader said immediate national response and that of the international community as well, was weak given that this was an unknown enemy. Thus Liberia became the Poster child of disaster as many lay dying on the streets without access to treatment or to a dignified burial.
She noted that the Government received many criticisms locally and internationally, but despite the condemnations, the administration got to work, establishing the leadership and incidence management structures, increasing social mobilization by engaging and empowering community volunteers, including faith based leaders and constituencies.
“By the end of November, response had shown significant results. Nevertheless, 3,608 of our citizens died, including 178 health care professionals”, the President lamented.
President Sirleaf said due to the Ebola virus, the health care system collapsed, airlines, investors, contractors, and citizens as well fled the country, while Liberian citizens and residents faced stigmatization and were denied entry into countries worldwide.
“Today, we take pride that 13 of our 15 counties have not reported any confirmed cases for over 21 days. Lofa, the epicenter of the virus, has had no new cases for over 70 days and the Ebola Treatment Unit in Foya is closed. The 103 beds in 6 Community Care Centers and 13 of the 19 constructed Ebola treatment centers which are currently operational have only 47 patients.”
She Liberia has an average of only 1 – 2 new cases a day in the only two affected counties, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount County.
However, she said the country’s diligent doctors, supported by partners brought joy by curing at least 1,401 victims, although many of them left behind 3,000 orphans, who now require Government’s love and care.
“I wish to express particular gratitude to President Goodluck Jonathan, the people and Government of the Republic of Nigeria, who, came to our help, financially and professionally, notwithstanding the fact that they lost loved ones because one of our citizens travelled there with the disease and infected many of their people”, President Sirleaf noted.
President said at the height of the Ebola outbreak, Liberia made a passionate global appeal for the much needed international humanitarian assistance, and the world rallied and responded massively, noting that the United States took the lead followed closely by the People’s Republic of China, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Nigeria, and Cuba among others and joined by international development partners such as the European Union, World Bank, African Development Bank, Medicine Sans Frontieres (MSF) International, smaller organizations and individuals. “Liberia passionately recognizes the numerous human, technical and material assistance of the global community.”
She however urged that the country makes an urgent successful transition from treatment to prevention by improving the health care system.
Prior to the Ebola outbreak, Liberia’s health care system, with support from partners, had an established decentralized infrastructure system that made notable progress in polio vaccination in reducing the high level of child and maternal mortality and addressing diseases such as malaria, diarrhea, HIV AIDS and Tuberculosis.
By Bridgett Milton