Amidst the euphoria that erupted here and among Liberians across the globe last Saturday, when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Liberia “Ebola transmission free,” President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the next challenge: to liberate Guinea and Sierra Leone from the deadly Ebola virus.
This is nothing short of a noble cause! This strangest of viruses started in Guinea in February 2014 and quickly spread to Liberia when one—yes, only one Liberian woman, married to a Guinean—crossed the border into Liberia from Foya in Lofa County. This lady, who fell sick, was visited by her younger sister who, following her sister’s death, traveled all the way to Harbel, Firestone. Health authorities managed to arrest this single case and luckily nothing else was recorded from this lady’s case. She later died at an isolation unit built by Firestone’s Du Side Hospital. Her husband and children were quarantined and fortunately, they all came out negative after 21 days.
Meanwhile, there were reports of the virus slowly spreading in Lofa County.
However, following this lady’s death in Harbel, there was not a recorded confirmed case for over a month and half until another person crossed over from Sierra Leone and came to Monrovia in May.
Soon the whole country became seriously affected, causing people to start dropping dead everywhere. Before we knew it, thousands had died, surpassing casualties in Guinea and even Sierra Leone, which borders both Guinea and Liberia.
That is when Liberians got very busy. The people, led by their courageous and determined President, finally faced up to the reality of the deadly virus and agreed to abandon their doubts about Ebola and their traditional practices, such as touching and bathing dead bodies. They also started reporting their sick or infected relatives and friends. The people also began observing all the protocols which the Ministry of Health had put into place to prevent the viral spread.
With the passionate and persistent appeals from President Sirleaf, the international community, too, though belatedly, rallied to the cause. The United Nations, the World Health Organization, the United States, China, the European Union and Liberia’s other bilateral partners came in full force with money, drugs and other supplies and medical and health teams. President Barack Obama deployed over 3000 US troops to build Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs) throughout the country.
Soon the attrition (eating away) started to show a steady, persistent decline. The climax came last Saturday then WHO declared Liberia “Ebola transmission free!”
But with the deadly virus still raging in Guinea and Sierra Leone, President Sirleaf rightly announced on Monday that Liberia would never be “totally free” until our two immediate neighbors are also free.
The big question is, How to help our neighbors? The first thing to do is what we started doing in this country—pray for our Guinean and Sierra Leonean brothers and sisters. In the same way the Master answered our prayers for ourselves, He will answer for them.
Secondly, let Ellen send them some money, as a token of our concern and solidarity. Thirdly, we need to deploy in each country some administrative, health and medical personnel, to beef up what each country has and join in the battle to eradicate the virus. Representative Saah Joseph started this when he sent a health team to Sierra Leone a few months back.
Fourthly, we need to mobilize the international community to go into Guinea and Sierra Leone with the same force with which they came into Liberia. Ellen should appeal to Prime Minister David Cameron and former Prime Minister Tony Blair to dispatch troops to build more ETUs in Sierra Leone. She should ask her friend, President Francois Hollande of France, to do the same for Guinea.
Our medical and healthcare personnel, we are sure, would be willingly assisted by some of our non-governmental partners, such as Medecins Sans Frontieres and Samaritan’s Purse in our outreach to our neighbors. We submit that NO ONE would say no to such an urgent, worthy plea.
We strongly believe that these initiatives would definitely work and by God’s grace, succeed in stopping the transmission in Guinean and Sierra Leonean.