President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday launched the “Ebola Must Go” campaign in a tiny church in a New Georgia community, praising the residents for their heroic efforts in embracing Ebola survivors, caring for families in quarantined homes and finding a home for about six children who reportedly lost their parents to the Ebola epidemic.
Ophelia Ghartey, Mother of the Christ Kingdom Harvest Church, told President Sirleaf, including US Ambassador Deborah Malac, members of the international community and government officials that when the mothers of the survivors succumbed to the Ebola virus, they (she and others) found them lying on the floor and vomiting. She said that the six survivors, whose ages range from two to 21, all showed signs of having been infected by the Ebola virus.
“We managed to find beds for them at an Ebola Treatment Unit. When the children survived and came home, the church decided to find a home for them but many house owners refused them. But eventually we were able to find a place for them. Community members raised money to buy food, phones, clothes and other necessities for the children,” Mother Ghartey said.
She said the community around the church lost at least 12 persons to the disease. But owing to their efforts in the community they have not recorded any new cases since September.
She called on all Liberians to join the fight against the virus, quoting America’s former President John F. Kennedy: “It is not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.”
At the launch of the campaign, President Sirleaf said that her government has set a goal of recording no new Ebola cases by the end of 2014.
The campaign focuses on five areas, including burying of dead bodies safely, keeping sick people in their own areas, speaking out if you know a sick person; helping health workers locate those who have come in physical contact with Ebola-infected persons, adding that ‘contacts’ should be adequately provided for with food and water.
“We are in new Georgia to launch the Ebola Must Go campaign. It is a nationwide effort between the government of Liberia and partners, particularly the people of Liberia, until we can achieve the national goal of recording no new cases at the end of the year. We have made great progress in stopping Ebola; but we know that the disease is still in our country; we all have to intensify our efforts to travel that difficult, very difficult last mile,” the President said, adding that through the efforts of everyone the disease has retreated into places that are hard to reach.
The President reminded the gathering that Ebola is real; but “we have passed the stage of saying it is real, and we must now say the virus must go.”
She described the community as a place that has made the difference and urged others to continue the fight against the virus.
In a brief chat with the six survivors, the President promised to work along with them and cautioned others to continually to follow all of the preventive measures, including keeping sick people away from others and constant washing of hands.
Also speaking at the event, the Assistant Minister of Health for Preventive Services and head of the Incident Management System (INS), Mr. Tolbert Nyenswah, said Liberia has come a long way since March 2014, when there were few beds for patients and no place to test for the disease. “Today, Liberia has nine laboratories, 2,000 ETU beds and 9,000 trained health workers. The community people are experts of Ebola and what can stop the virus is an example of community engagement,” he said.
Members of the community were glad that their efforts of helping to reduce Ebola cases in their neighborhood have be recognized.
One of the residents, Lucy George, said “Our community was one of the hardest-hit areas. At that time we had no ideas on what to do to prevent ourselves from the virus. Because of that, we lost 12 persons including the parents of the six children.”
The community learned more about the disease when its chairman, Mr. J. B. Walker, received training through the MOH.
The United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) representative, Mr. Anthony Banbury, who also attended the launching ceremony, thanked the people of New Georgia for their contributions to the fight against the virus.
He gave US$10,000 to the community and one thousand to the church.
The Government of Liberia also gave US$5,000 to the community, in order to help it continue the fight against the virus, and has promised to fix the community road.