As the United States Capital City Washington DC observed “Ebola Awareness Day,” last Friday December 5, Diaspora leaders from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Mali gathered in Washington DC to express solidarity with their four nations in the global fight to halt the Ebola Epidemic.
In a solemn ceremony of regional kinship, leaders of the Mano River nations, along with Malian nationals paid tribute to the deceased victims of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) including doctors, health workers and individual citizens, when they presented plaques of honor to their Ambassadors in Washington. Special honors were also given to the noted Ebola survivors, Dr. Kent Brantley, and Nancy Writebol of Samaritan Purse, who were evacuated to the United States after contracting the deadly Ebola virus. The presentations were made at National Ebola Summit held at the Washington DC Convention Center by the Diaspora Ebola Network, (DEN).
Presenting the awards, DEN Chairman John G.F. Lloyd said the presentations represented the deep sentiments of solidarity and grief felt by the communities of the three nations residing abroad. He extolled the marvelous sprit of collaboration among Diaspora nationals of the Mano River Union, noting “out of this moment of pain we have come together in an unprecedented fashion to show our love for our people.” He continued, “If this spirit of solidarity can endure even beyond Ebola, then the sacrifice of our people will not be in vain.” He was joined by the community leaders of Liberia Sierra Leone, and Guinea, from both America and Europe, who in separate remarks, expressed concern for the plight of their people at home, and pledged solidarity and support for the individual nations.
Dr. Lance Plyer, Samaritan Purse Medical Director for Liberia, who received the awards for the two U.S. survivors Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol expressed humble gratitude on behalf of his mission. After rendering a touching narration of the medical treatment he gave to sustain the life of the two survivors, he pledged the unwavering commitment of Samaritan Purse to the people of Liberia even beyond Ebola. Special recognition was also given to the late Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, and Dr. Martin Salia of Sierra Leone, who both succumbed to Ebola in the United States.
Among key dignitaries at the event was Andrew Weber, the newly appointed Ebola Coordinator at United States Department of State who pledged the continued commitment of the United States government towards stopping Ebola in West Africa for the sake of global security. He noted that the U.S., under the leadership of President Obama is committed to increase its effort with added resources where necessary to ensure the end of the deadly epidemic in West Africa.
Also present were top Washington DC City Officials including DC Director of Health Joxel Garcia and City Councilwoman Yvette Alexander, who officially brought greetings from the DC government with the reading of an official Proclamation by Washington DC Mayor Vincent Gray declaring the date of the Summit as “DC Ebola Awareness Day.”
Their greetings were followed by remarks from the Ambassadors of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, along with a statement by the Charge d’Affairs of Mali. In their official remarks, the four envoys expressed gratitude to the U.S. government, and the entire international community for the support given to their individual countries. Ambassador Jeremiah Sulunteh of Liberia praised the role of U.S. government and called upon the United States to continue in its role as the global leader in the fight to end Ebola. Ambassador Bockarie Stevens of Sierra Leone extolled the great initiative shown by the three communities, and welcomed the spirit of unity shown in the wake of Ebola. Guinean Ambassador Mamady Conde warned that Ebola is a global threat not limited to West Africa, adding “Ebola does not need any visa to enter a country.” For his part, Malian Charge d’Affairs Moustapha Cisse representing the latest nation to be infected, called upon the international community to work vigorously to stop Ebola at its early stages in Mali.
Panel guests included representatives of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the D.C. Department of Health, Samaritan Purse, the DC Office of African Affairs, and other major international agencies.
The National Ebola Summit was organized by DEN, a joint Venture of leading Mano River Union Diaspora organizations, in collaboration with the USAID-Center for International Disaster Information (CIDI), the Government of the District of Columbia Office of African Affairs, the CDC, and Samaritan Purse. Diaspora organizations working in partnership to host the Summit include the Coalition of Concerned Liberians, (CCL), the National Organization of Sierra Leoneans in North America (NOSLINA), and the Guinean Association of America, and the European Federation of Liberian Associations (ELFA), the Union of Liberian Associations in the Americas along with several national alumni, county based, religious, and humanitarian organizations.
Under the theme “Working Together to Help End Ebola”, deliberations at the Summit were centered upon fostering collaboration and meaningful relations amongst Diaspora organizations and relief groups which have already raised millions of dollars in separate initiatives.
The Washington DC Summit coincided with a similar initiative in London, UK organized by the “Elbow out Ebola” movement to highlight issues that will impact on the future recovery, and development in the worst affected West African countries, beyond the end of Ebola.