As of March 30, 2015, Liberia has, gain, begun a count-down towards the 42-day benchmark set by the World Health Organization or WHO for an Ebola-free nation.
The Head of the country’s Incident Management System or IMS- the main operational center responsible for Liberia’s Ebola response, Assistant Health Minister Tolbert Nyenswa announced the count-down on Monday at the Ministry of Information and Tuesday on a local radio talk show in Paynesville, a week following the death of the last Ebola victim.
The victim’s death interrupted the first count-down midway, further dashing the hopes of many Liberians, including President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, toward meeting the 42-day benchmark for the country to be declared Ebola-free by the WHO.
Complacency on the part of the Government of Liberia and Liberians in general may have been an attributing factor. Our inability to persistently continue the battle against Ebola as if we were still in August and September of 2014, implementing all of the necessary preventive measures prescribed by the Ministry of Health and partners may have been resulted to the complacency.
In view of the foregoing, we do not suggest any form or manner of negative criticism or condemnation of the IMS and partners or health workers or even the Government of Liberia; after all, had it not being for their commitment and diligence to life during such a difficult period in our nation’s history, the worst would have happened.
That is why as we draw their attention to these threatening observations, we will continue to hail and cherish them for these continuous efforts toward raiding our country of any threat of Ebola.
All that we attempt to draw their attention to is the issue of complacency at all levels as a way of reinvigorating the spirit of the battle against the disease, as well as sustaining such fight with vigor until the final battle is won.
Placing much emphasis on meeting up with the 42-day benchmark to be declared Ebola-free and the publicity attached must not be our primary focus; how we move towards meeting that standard should, instead, be our primary concern. And how we go about it entails sustained, vigorous and continued sensitization/awareness using the community-based approach as was done sometimes during the intensity of the disease last year, as well as the use of the radio and television airwaves. At the core of these anti-Ebola activities must community mobilization on the various preventive measures.
Such exercise must also take us to our borders and beyond, especially in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone where efforts against the disease are also continuing.
In addition to the foregoing, the behavioral pattern of Ebola survivors must be seriously considered, especially at this point in time of the final battle against the disease.
The Head of the IMS and Assistant Health Minister Nyenswah told a recent MICAT Press briefing that out of the 211 contacts being monitored by the Ministry of Health and partners as a result of the recent Ebola case, 26 contacts have already been cleared, while 185 are still under surveillance.
“We still are intensifying our normal contact tracing. We are investigating to see whether or not the people should remain on the contact list or it is fair enough to release them,” Nyenswah noted, re-emphasizing the ministry’s warning that Ebola survivors abstain from sex for 90 or more days or observe safe sex practices by use of condoms.
While this warning is more than appropriate, let it also be translated into a community-based campaign so that such behavioral pattern of survivors can be discouraged at the community level.
We, once more, commend the Incident Management System headed by Minister Nyenswah and partners, health workers at the various Ebola Treatment Unit or ETU, as well as the Government of Liberia headed by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf their efforts to stabilize this nation. But we need to do more because it is not over until it is over.