What appears as a gradual fulfillment of a promise made by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that Liberia’s attention will now be turned to liberating her neighbors from the grip of the Ebola Virus Disease, the Liberia National Red Cross Society (LNRCS) has begun to intervene in Sierra Leone in order to help rid that country of the virus.
Making remarks at the formal program marking the official presentation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) statement declaring Liberia Ebola transmission free May 11, President Sirleaf said now the challenge for her and the Liberian Government is “turning all attention to Guinea and Sierra Leone until they are Ebola free, too”.
“Those sisterly nations are still reporting confirmed cases and once the virus is still present in those neighboring countries, Liberia is not totally out of the woods,” she said, urging Liberians to join efforts to ensure that neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone are liberated from the grips of the deadly virus.
It is in this regard that the LNRCS thought it wise to engage the country’s neighbors, especially at the borders’ communities, beginning with Sierra Leone at a time when both countries continue to report confirmed cases.
Through its Cross-border Surveillance Initiative, the LNRCS has begun to distribute anti-Ebola materials as well as intensifying the preaching of safety messages in that country.
It distributed 500 hand washing buckets, 50 pieces of thermometers and two buckets of chlorine in Jendema, the first border town in Sierra Leone. The initiative is part of the LNRCS’ ongoing Ebola response activities along the borderline to complement the effort of the Liberian Government to ensure the safety of border communities, LNRCS Chief of Communication, Oniel Bestman told Journalists.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for more asserted actions from local and international partner as well as the citizenries of both countries if they are to join Liberia in being declared Ebola transmission free soon.
WHO’s latest updates on Guinea and Sierra Leone states that the intensity and geographical area of Ebola transmission have increased in both countries. A total of 25 confirmed cases were reported from an increase from the 10-month low of 9 cases reported in the week up to May 10.
Making the donation on behalf of the LNRCS and the government was Grand Cape Mount Superintendent, Tenneh Simpson-Kpedebah and the head of LNRCS mobilization team, Cytirus Kerbay.
Superintendent Kpedebah turned the items over to Mohammed Kpaka, District Health Officer of Pujehun District in which Jendema is located in Sierra Leone. She said although Liberia has been declared Ebola-free, Red Cross continues to encourage Liberians to keep up preventative action to keep themselves and their families safe. The donation was made on Saturday.
She hoped that the people will make better uses of the items and follow all of the safety protocols in order to rid that country of the virus.
As long as Sierra Leone and Guinea continue to report new confirmed cases we are not free, she said, noting that Liberians must remain vigilant. “This is why we have come to equip you so that we all can fight this battle together and be free from this virus.”
LNRCS said the donation was prompted as a result of an earlier assessment made through surveillance patrol by the Secretary General, Fayiah Tamba, along with some Ministry of Health officials at the border communities.
“From our own observation we saw that there were no buckets are homes and in public places for people to wash their hands and frequently take their temperature. This is why our SG promised to make this donation because you people really need them.” Madam Kerbay said.
Craving for Liberation
Sierra Leoneans are also craving to be delivered from the EVD scourge as soon as possible as Liberia has already been declared. Many of those who spoke at the donation ceremony acknowledged that
Liberia was very vigilant in the fight from the onset so it does not come as a surprise for the country to be the first to win the battle and be declared free of the virus.
Upon lauding the LNRCS for the donation, Mr. Kpaka, who received the items on behalf of the people of Pujehun District, said Liberia, as a true neighbor, means well for her neighbor and wants it to be free of the virus as well.
“This is a very good initiative that we highly appreciate. Liberia has always been of great help to us and coming again to identify with us in this manner is very laudable,” he said, “We also want to be free from this virus too because it has not been easy for us.”
He said one case is a very big problem, “since movements are taking place it can make that disease to be spread very quickly and at this point in time they are here to help us in order to prevent disease. It is a very good help, we say plenty thanks to them.”
He promised that the items will be used for the intended purpose; adding that he and his team would monitor the usage of the items in order to make sure that they are being used for their intended purposes.
Jendema Town Chief, Oldman Prince Kermokai, also lauded the LNRCS for the gesture, which he said will be of great help not only to his township, but both countries.
“We are aware that Liberia and Sierra Leone are two sisterly states and we believe that whatsoever problem that faces Sierra Leone will also face Liberia. So we thank you very much for what you have done for us today,” he said.
Mr. Bestman, who spoke earlier, said while Liberia begins to talk about recovery, this can be done at the expense of continued response mechanisms.
“We have to be able to maintain an efficient and effective level of response in order to bring this disease to an end. This requires having adequate resources strategically positioned to affect a timely response when new confirmed cases arise.
“LNRCS volunteers are conducting active surveillance at check points and in communities along the border, reaching almost 2,000 people daily. We cannot allow ourselves to be dragged back into the grip of this virus,” he said.