Former United States President, Bill Clinton, has called on Liberians to desist from stigmatizing Ebola survivors but rather embrace them and make them feel part of the Liberian society.
Speaking during a one day visit to the country on Monday, President Clinton said, “Don’t be afraid of them [Ebola survivors]; they are okay. They should be embraced, rather than discriminated against.”
President Clinton made the comments to reporters at the Emergency Operations Center on 18th Street in Sinkor. He held a meeting with the Incidence Management System (IMS) and partners (local and international) who have assisted Liberia in its fight against the Ebola virus disease.
Prior to the meeting, President Clinton interacted with some Ebola survivors, including the leadership of the Ebola Survivors Network who shared with him some of the challenges they face as individuals and as a network.
The president of the network, Patrick Faley, highlighted problems affecting them. He summed these up as discrimination, stigmatization, and access to jobs and healthcare.
President Clinton, responding said they were in the country because they didn’t want the world to forget about them. “We want to do what we can to help. I want the people in Liberia not to discriminate against you. They should not be afraid,” he urged Liberians, adding, “We have to get past this stigma. We can’t have your countrymen and women discriminate. They should celebrate with you that you survived and help you deal with these other problems that come up.”
President Clinton’s call for an end to stigmatization comes with just few days left for the World Health Organization to declare Liberia free of the deadly virus.
The former US president said it is necessary to support Liberia’s post-Ebola recovery plan and assist President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf rebuild the country’s healthcare delivery system, specifically in training more healthcare workers.
“We need to get the funds in here to train community health workers and other health practitioners to make sure you don’t get this disease,” he said.
President Clinton and his daughter Chelsea are on a nine-day visit of four African countries to observe foreign projects the Clinton Global Initiative has supported which is connected to healthcare, global warming, wildlife protection, education and agriculture. They have already visited Tanzania, Kenya and are now on their way to Morocco on the last leg of the African tour. This is the 12th time President Clinton has visited Africa.