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“Progress in Liberian Ebola fight is thanks to Pres. Obama” – Pres. Sirleaf

The Ebola virus disease has not yet been kicked from Liberia, but at 10 infections per day, it is stabilising, and according to the president of the West African country, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, this good news is down to the leadership of US President Obama’s administration, and the support by the US Congress

Sirleaf said this when she spoke with members of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs on Wednesday, December 10 during a hearing which discussed “The Ebola Epidemic: The Keys to Success for International Response”. According to her, the support from the Americans encouraged the rest of the world to respond to the Ebola crisis.

President Obama has requested US$6.2 billion in emergency funding from Congress to fight the Ebola virus disease in America and abroad, although US lawmakers announced late Tuesday they plan to authorize US$5.4 billion at his request.

The Liberian president said that more needs to be done for Liberia however, as this phase in the cycle of the disease is the most critical.

Liberian burial tam at work                            Photo: New York Times
Liberian burial tam at work Photo: New York Times

Sirleaf also provided some updates on the efforts in curtailing the disease.

She said that now the 70 burial teams nationwide bury 23 persons per day compared to hundreds per day, months ago.

“We have seen a drop from around 100 new cases per day at the peak of the epidemic, to only 10 confirmed new cases per day over the past week.  Our six active laboratories have tested 60 samples a day, but on average only find 8 new Ebola cases per day. The 4,000 contact tracers which involve community workers are following some 7,000 persons.  Doctors, nurses and other health care workers, some 174 of the over 3,000 who have died, are no longer at risk because quality treatment facilities are available to them.  We are happy to say that 1,312 persons including 345 children, many of them orphaned, have walked away free from the disease,” she said.

Challenges remain however. Unlike in a country like the USA where for every sick patient, the government had to quarantine and monitor just about 40 contacts, the challenge is greater in Liberia where there are thousands more contacts and many of them in remote, hard to reach areas. She said that it will be impossible to achieve full eradication of Ebola until the whole region is freed from Ebola, there is prevention against future possible outbreak and until a medicine is developed, both preventative and curative to conquer the deadly disease.

Sirleaf asked for US government continued support to help Liberia move from treatment to prevention. She called for strengthening community ownership and responsibility for awareness and immediate response action, through the Community Care Centers that are being established with the support of USAID.

Riot police hold people back at the West Point slum in Monrovia, Liberia. The slum was quarantined following the Ebola outbreak, leading to protests from residents. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
Riot police hold people back at the West Point slum in Monrovia, Liberia. The slum was quarantined following the Ebola outbreak, leading to protests from residents. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

The statistics which she disclosed to the committee on state of health care in Liberia were grim.
Imagine this: According to the president, “Liberia has 218 medical doctors and 5,234 nurses to serve a 4.3 million population at 405 public and 253 private health facilities. This means we have 1 doctor for 100,000 people, compared with 4 per 100,000 in Sierra Leone, 10 per 100,000 in Guinea and 245 per 100,000 in the United States.” In fact, there are more Liberian doctors and medical professionals in the United States than at home; most of whom left during the war.

President Sirleaf informed the US Senate Subcommittee that her government has asked the 137 partners from some 26 countries who are with the country in this fight to join in an expanded effort that will help the country bounce back and grow.

“My government is preparing a comprehensive plan for Liberia’s post-Ebola economic recovery, accelerating our work in infrastructure – above all Roads to Health, electricity and WATSAN operations. A major push in the agricultural sector, where most Liberians are employed, will enable us to generate jobs and restore livelihoods. The private sector will play a crucial role,” she said.

Public health advocates stage an Ebola awareness and prevention event on August 18, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images
Public health advocates stage an Ebola awareness and prevention event on August 18, 2014 in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

She appealed for an extension of the Millennium Challenge Corporation grant which, she says, would be a game changer for Liberia. “It would facilitate our post-Ebola economic recovery and put our development momentum back on track leading to substantial transformation of our economy.”

President Sirleaf thanked the United States Congress, for the friendship and assistance, without which much progress would not have been made to date. She said a lot more remains to be done for which their continued partnership will be required. For her, she said there remains a resolve to meet the challenge that confronts Liberia is strong and unrelenting.

“We will win this battle,” she said.

Source: The Liberian Observer

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