‘We Owe You a Debt of Gratitude,’

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President Sirleaf poses with the head of ASEOWA, Dr. Oketta and others_WEB.jpg

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says Liberians owe the African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (AU-ASEOWA) a debt of gratitude as the medical team came at the time they were most needed in the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

She said their arrival brought inspiration to Liberian health workers who were overwhelmed by the disease. She indicated that nothing pleased her more than the fact that African brothers and sisters volunteered to come to the aid of Liberia and other affected countries desperately in need.

She acknowledged that they took the risk to come to the assistance of the sub-region because the disease was unknown; but they performed well fighting the virus and provided training to enhance the capacity of Liberian health workers.

According to an Executive Mansion release, Madam Sirleaf made the assertion in a special statement of appreciation at an honoring ceremony and farewell reception hosted by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Health for the head of mission and the medical team of the AU-ASEOWA at the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, May 21.

She praised the medical teams and their heads who shared their skills with Liberian health workers working in partnership to be able to defeat Ebola. She pointed out that the various trainings provided to Liberians are critical to the healthcare system in terms of infection control as the country is plagued with a lot of other diseases beyond Ebola with similar and related symptoms.

President Sirleaf also praised international partners who brought the extra support – financial, material and technical – noting that the contribution of all have made her say, “we are proud of the African success.”

She extended best wishes, appreciation and gratitude on behalf of her compatriots as the medical volunteers depart Liberia for the home countries and also extended an invitation to them to return whenever they wish to the friends they’ve made. “Come back and see what you have started in helping us to reform our health care system,” the Liberian leader said, pleading that they accept the invitation whenever they can and consider Liberia a second home.

Speaking earlier on behalf of the medical team, the head of Mission of the AU-ASEOWA, Major General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta, relatively short of words, expressed happiness and joy for the achievements in Liberia against the Ebola virus disease.

He said, from the onset of their deployment here, the team found Liberians effectively providing the courage and direction to their compatriots that this country must survive by dealing with Ebola.
General Oketta updated the audience about the specific interventions and support provided by the AU-ASEOWA and others during the battle to contain the spread of the disease and highlighted the progress made that contributed to the overall victory scored by Liberia which was the worst affected country. “The fight was done with excellent precision and commitment and today, together with you, we say thanks you Madam President,” he said praising her exemplary leadership and the recognition of ASEOWA’s role during the fight against Ebola.

Major General Oketta urged the African Union the immediately operationalize an African Center for Disease Control and Prevention (African CDC). If that is realized, the over 800 professional personnel he had under his control should serve as a base for the center as they will be a quick response team whenever there is outbreak anywhere on the continent.

He said with the help of ASEOWA and partners, over 2,000 Liberians have been trained and now have the competence that if anything happens tomorrow when they have left, these Liberians will be able to deal with the initial response.

He expressed his gratitude to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Health, and all Liberians. “May the good Lord bless the people of Liberia, including President Sirleaf and the land of liberty.

For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Augustine Ngafuan praised the Nigerian, and Ethiopian, Kenyan medical teams, African Union Commission staff and individual volunteers and stressed that Liberia will remain internally grateful for their contributions to the fight against the Ebola virus disease.

He particularly indicated that Liberians had become accustomed to seeing peacekeepers due to security and political challenges in the pass; but were now seeing, for the first time, health workers from ASEOWA and other missions.

The Liberian foreign minister said ASEOWA saw its work in Liberia as not just a pride to prevent deaths from Ebola; but to prevent deaths no matter the cost. “Because you the medical and technical personnel traded the safety and security of our countries for the uncertainties and dangers with working in an Ebola infested country, you have set a new standard in volunteerism and African solidarity.”

Earlier, Major General Oketta was named and gowned Paramount Chief Aquoi Tellowoyan of Lofa County. In the coming weeks, he is expected to be taken to Voinjama, Lofa County where a special ceremony pertaining to his title is will be performed.

Besides, the Head of Mission of the African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA), Major General Dr. Julius Facki Oketta and the 373 medical team and volunteers were presented certificates for their dedicated and sacrificial work in Liberia.

The AU-ASEOWA medical team deployed to Liberia included 98 Nigerians, 88 Ethiopians, 92 Kenyans, 88 individual volunteers, and seven AU Commission staff.

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