Ellen Hails Community Leadership in Ebola Fight

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President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reiterated her admiration for the robust manner in which communities across Liberia combatted the Ebola Virus Disease that ravaged the country.

She also expressed gratitude to those who played leadership roles in the various communities during the crisis. She said efforts from the communities, coupled with the interventions of the international community and other partners enabled the country to contain the virus.

According to the President, Liberia has been successful thus far in its battle against the EVD because the communities took charge, took leadership and took ownership of the fight.  She further indicated that the Liberian communities must now begin to take on the challenges of their recovery as they did successfully during the Ebola crisis.

President Sirleaf made these comments when she delivered the keynote address at the First National Ebola Conference on Thursday. The conference focused on the perspectives of community leaders. The two-day event, organized by IREX and NAYMOTE with funding from USAID, took place at a local resort in Monrovia.

 “While we applaud our doctors, nurses, the Incident Management System and all of the other medical practitioners who have helped to bring us thus far in the fight against Ebola, we recognize you, the communities, those  leaders who mobilized their [people’s] rapid response that have led to this level of success today.”

It may be recalled while speaking with United States   President Obama about the Ebola crisis during her visit to the White House recently, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf paid tribute to the various Liberian communities for their role in the fight.

“The one critical element in all of this was our people, particularly our community people. They took responsibility, they took leadership and they took ownership. And going forward, we want to strengthen them,” she told the US leader. 

President Sirleaf told the conference that Ebola has lifted our spirit of making Liberia a place for each and every Liberian. She lauded the volunteer spirit of young people that were involved in the fight.

She noted that the IREX, USAID and NAYMOTE initiative has identified gaps, calling IREX to share this information to enable government to manage any possible recurrence. She described the initiative as a welcome development.

The onus is on civil society organizations (CSO) and the media to lead this initiative that will enable us to enhance our growing democracy, she declared.

The President noted that with every crisis comes opportunities and we must use these to put our country in a better position.

US Ambassador, Deborah Malac said without the involvement of the various communities in the fight against the virus, it could have been a different story.  She lauded the involvement of the various   communities, which has helped to curb the infection so far.

“We want to say a very big thanks to the communities and their leaders who said we are not going to allow this disease to beat us.”

She disclosed that she and the President have been discussing how to harness the energies and experiences of the communities during the Ebola fight and move these in different directions in  the post-Ebola period.

A participant at the conference said communities the world over, many of which are vibrant, enlightened and cooperative, served as the backbone of every society or country, but this has not often been the case in Liberia.

This, he said, is because the people continue to live in abject poverty caused by rampant corruption, which has brought about mistrust from the people towards their government.

 He indicated that the Ebola crisis was totally a different story as it compelled the people to collaborate with their government.

“Ordinary citizens took upon themselves, all in an effort to save their communities and to a larger extent the Liberian state. At no time in the recent history of the country had the people closely collaborated with the government on such a unified front, a participant at the ceremony said.”

Meanwhile, the conference is a result of 60 Community Leaders’ Forums organized by eight national NGOs through IREX/USAID grants. The input from over 1000 ordinary community leaders in thirteen of Liberia’s fifteen counties revealed common issues across the country and enlightening information on how the communities set about dealing with them.

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