Though two astute daughters of Liberia won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 for their roles in bringing peace to their country during the 14 year civil crisis that claimed over 300,000 lives, an official of the United Nations (UN) has begun an advocacy for the country, as a whole, to be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.
This time, it is for Liberia’s role in virtually bringing a global threat, the Ebola pandemic, to an end.
Mr. Peter Dalglish from the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), said that the world needs to appreciate Liberians by awarding them a Nobel Peace Prize for halting the spread of the deadly Ebola virus that could have become a universal catastrophe.
The EVD drew global attention when it went out of control after claiming over 3,000 lives in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea and in Nigeria, where a few cases were also reported. The World Health Organization, which responded belatedly to the reality of the deadly epidemic, was brought under intense pressure and subsequently declared the outbreak a global health emergency.
Liberia was soon considered the epi-center of the virus, with more than half of the overall casualties. But in less than seven months the tide began to turn with Liberia being referenced as a success story by the international community for its robust efforts in combating the scourge.
Speaking in Monrovia last week, UNMEER’s Montserrado County Crisis Manager, Dalglish, said the people of Liberia deserve the Nobel Prize for the courage, resilience, determination and perseverance they have shown in combating the deadly Ebola virus disease.
It has been an extraordinary international effort, but in the end, he declared, it is the people of Liberia that made the difference.
He spoke at the start of a two-day Community Leaders’ Conference under the theme: “Ebola’s Impact on Communities: Learning from Their Experiences to Plan for the Future.”
The conference was in support of the Liberian Government’s desire to strengthen communities that took responsibility and ownership of the fight against Ebola, organizers said.
The event which took place at a local resort in Monrovia was sponsored by IREX, NAYMOTE and United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Giving his opinion on government’s decision to reopen schools throughout the country as Ebola declined, Mr. Dalglish said though it may have been perceived as a little risky, it is in the right direction.
He said reopening schools served as a morale boost for the country, indicating that Liberians are going about their normal activities.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in her remarks said special commendation must be given to all the community people across the country who took on the leadership and ownership in the fight against the disease.
“Let me say to all of you how proud we are about this role that you have played that has brought us to this point of progress. We are encouraged by the commitment of this initiative that will take you one step further to support this spirit of volunteerism and selflessness that has characterized the various interventions made by scores of young people to save lives and livelihoods,” she said.
When the unknown enemy struck, the entire nation was overwhelmed, she recalled. But the nation’s resilience, backed by community ownership, empowerment, political leadership and technical expertise from international and local partners, ensured the progress that Liberia currently celebrates.
United States Ambassador, Deborah Malac, praised the efforts of the community leaders who have ensured that Liberia would have begun the 42-day countdown to be declared Ebola free, which was however interrupted with confirmation of a new case in the country.
She said though the U.S. Government and others provided support to Liberia, community leaders are the ones that made it happen. “It would not have made any difference without all of you, your willingness, your courage, to step up and organize and mobilize the communities,” she told the community leaders.
IREX Chief of Party, Bill Burke, said the USAID-funded Civil Society and Media Leadership program implemented by IREX was born out of the desire to sustain Liberia’s hard won peace by strengthening civil society organizations and the independent media.
Mr. Burke said as government and its partners focused on containing the virus, they turned their attention to working with communities to sustain the peace amid the confusion and chaos during the height of the Ebola crisis.