General Julius OKetta, head of the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA) yesterday bade President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf farewell following the end of the Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Liberia.
General Oketta was joined on the visit by the director of social affairs at the African Union Commission, Ambassador Olawale Maiyegun, and head of mission support of ASEOWA, Dr. Dioudalbay Benjamin.
According to an Executive Mansion release, President Sirleaf indicated that nothing pleased her more than the fact that brothers and sisters from the African continent decided to come to the aid of the affected countries voluntarily when they were most needed.
She acknowledged that they took the risk to come to the assistance of Liberia and the other affected nations, “because the disease was unknown; but they performed well in fighting the virus and provided training for locals to enhance their capacity.”
President Sirleaf pointed out that the various training provided to the locals are critical to Liberia’s healthcare system in terms of infection control as the country is plagued with a lot of other diseases beyond Ebola with similar and related symptoms.
“Kindly convey the sincere appreciation of the Liberian Government and people to the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr. Nkosazana Zuma, for sending ASEOWA and supporting Liberia in its fight against the Ebola virus disease,” she told Dr. Oketta, adding, “I will meet and personally thank Dr. Zuma and other leaders of the African Union when we meet in South Africa later this year.”
President Sirleaf further commended General Oketta and his Liberia team for the wonderful job done along with other international partners in containing the further spread of the virus.
She was particularly thankful that none of the over 400 ASEOWA personnel were victimized by the virus during the discharge of their duties, adding that Liberians will remain ever grateful to them for their “sacrificial service.”
For his part, General Oketta expressed heartfelt gratitude to President Sirleaf on behalf of ASEOWA for her exemplary leadership and recognition of ASEOWA’s role during the fight against the Ebola virus disease.
General Oketta updated the Liberian leader about the specific interventions and support given by ASEOWA during the battle to contain the spread of the disease and underscored the progress made that contributed to the overall victory scored by Liberia which was the worst hit with huge casualties during the peak of the outbreak.
“AU-ASEOWA, the Cubans and the Ministry of Health (MOH) jointly operated the 100-bed capacity Ministry of Defense (MOD) – Ebola treatment unit (ETU) with management responsibility provided by ASEOWA while the Ministry of Health played the supervisory role.
“We also supported the Chinese ETU on Ebola case management and ELWA-III ETU in Ebola training and treatment of patients. We additionally partnered with the World Health Organization and MOH on the operations of the Island Clinic ETU,” General Oketta informed President Sirleaf.
He pointed out that over 229 admissions were made at the MOD-ETU with 54 confirmed cases and that 22 of the confirmed cases were discharged while 32 were victimized by the disease which reflects a survivor rate of 56 percent.
The AU-ASEOWA Mission head told President Sirleaf that 123 staff members were assigned at seven medical facilities including the JDJ, Redemption, Benson, ELWA, J. F. Kennedy, Catholic and C.H. Rennie Hospitals; while 38 staff members were deployed in health facilities supported for triage.
He narrated further that both JDJ and Redemption Hospitals were assisted with renovation and equipment; while admissions, surgeries, and deliveries increased and maternal mortality and neonatal mortality decreased.
General Oketta used the occasion to introduce the Chadian doctor, Dioudalbay Benjamin, who will act as head of ASEOWA until the mission ends in August this year.
“Under your effective leadership, the Liberian people have liberated themselves, the land of liberty is free from Ebola; congratulations,” General Oketta declared.
Also making brief remarks, the director of social affairs of the African Union Commission, Ambassador Olawale Maiyegun, extended warm greetings on behalf of Dr. Zuma and was full of praise for the demonstrated leadership of President Sirleaf during the Ebola crisis.
He said the country and its people should be congratulated for fighting and defeating the virus and pledged the African Union’s continuous support to Liberia during the recovery period. He disclosed that the African Union Commission will shortly announce the holding of an AU post-Ebola conference to generate support for the affected countries.