Free At Last


The World Health Organization (WHO) has at last declared Liberia Ebola-free!

The WHO Representative to Liberia, Dr. Alex Gasasira, early last Saturday morning read a statement declaring Liberia Ebola-free after the country had endured the torments of the horrifying virus for nearly 415 days during which it killed over 4000 people.

The Declaration was read at the anti-Ebola Incident Management System (IMS) headquarters at 18th Street, Monrovia.

WHO’s announcement came after the entire Liberian  nation had  completed the required 42 days representing two-incubation periods of the virus without a single confirmed case. Actually on Saturday, Liberia had gone 50 days since the last case was reported in March this year.

At the 359th Emergency Operations Center (EOC) Meeting, Mr. Luke Bawo, Head of Epidemic Surveillance, the man who leads the group that takes stock of the daily Ebola happenings around the country, said the entire country was now "green”. This meant that the entire nation is now free of the viral transmission.

In brief remarks, US Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Deborah Malac, said she and the American people, are grateful that they were part of the effort to make Liberia Ebola free. She then stated that it is now time to begin the development of Liberia.

UNMEER head and Acting UNMIL Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG), Mr. Peter Graaff, who spoke on behalf of the UN Family, buttressed the US Ambassador’s comment. He stated that it was time for all Liberians to roll up their sleeves, declaring, “This country needs to get back on its development path.”

He humorously told President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that he couldn't wait to learn the famous Liberian handshake.

The Liberian handshake requires both the right hands of two individuals to engage firmly together their thumbs and middle fingers in a snap, making a loud, joyful sound.

Outgoing Health Minster, Dr. Walter T. Gwenigale, said he was grateful that the country had now been declared Ebola free. Min. Gwenigale recalled how painful it was for him to call the President last year March and say: “Madam, we are in trouble!”

Dr. Gwenigale, stated that while the WHO announcement was good news, he, however, cautioned everyone to maintain all the Ebola protocols, including constant washing of hands.

"We are not totally off the hook because our neighbors — Guinea and Sierra Leone — are still reporting confirmed cases, Gwenigale  warned.

Before she began her remarks, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf called for a moment of silence for the more than 4,000 Liberians that died after contracting the virus. Most of the dead were cremated, which is totally against the traditional way Liberians bury their dead.

President Sirleaf said from time to time she relives the horrifying moments during the height of the Ebola epidemic when sirens kept sounding across the city, people dropping dead in the streets, doctors and other health workers fleeing the hospitals for their lives as they, too, were dying.

She disclosed that she had last Saturday written another letter to the world, telling the world thanks for the immense support they provided Liberia in order to combat the deadly Ebola virus disease.

The President had written the world during the height of the crisis explaining how the virus was having a deadly impact on the lives and economy of the people of Liberia.

She announced that today (Monday), the government was expecting a number of African leaders, including the Nigerian and Togolese Presidents, to grace the formal celebration of the WHO declaration of Liberia being “Ebola-free,” during which time the declaration will be formally presented to her.

She stated that she had been told by the health experts that Liberia will from time to time experience “some outbreaks here and there. But if our system remains vigilant, we are going to be able to arrest any case.”

The President, too, cautioned Liberians not to do things that will endanger their lives and that of their relatives.

To prove that the nation was now Ebola free, the President shook the hands of WHO Rep., Dr. Gasasira and US Ambassador Malac.  She has not shaken anyone’s hands openly for more than six months because touching was one way to spread the disease.


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