Stepping Up to the Plate – Liberia’s Untold Ebola Story

Excerpts from the Executive Summary of a long overdue publication by Olubanke King-Akerele, Liberia’s Untold Ebola Story. 

The book is dedicated to those who died during the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea as well as to those who survived. May we keep their memories alive forever. It is a story exhibiting the essence of Patriotism in Action by The Liberian Institute for “Growing” Patriotism and the The Angie Brooks International Centre for Women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security (ABIC) with a Foreword by Her Lordship Hon. Clara Mvogo, Former Mayor of Monrovia. 

(FORTE Publishing Intl.)

Excerpts from the Executive Summary

The upcoming book, Stepping Up to the Plate – Liberia’s Untold Ebola Story, consist of a  far-from-exhaustive compilation of responses to the Ebola (EVD) crisis from Liberians at Home and  in the Diaspora (U.K, Europe, USA, among others). The active role of Liberia’s medical professionals overseas is also highlighted. It summarizes the role of Liberia’s diplomatic mission  and consulates overseas, including missions in the United States of America, Great Britain, Senegal,  South Africa, Germany and the Liberian Consulate in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A. 

Of particular significance within the nation’s Untold Ebola Story, is the extent to  which Liberians themselves had pioneered a unique community grass-roots level  approach, to tackling the Ebola Scourge. The net result and impact of this have been  captured in the following statement by the Senior Advisor to UNMEER, (- the UN  Mission for Emergency Ebola Response) & UN OCHA Permanent Observer  accredited to the African Union. Jeanine M. Cooper 

“By the time the foreign aid workers arrived, the lion’s share of community  outreach, of care for quarantined families, had been done by Liberians – with their  own funding and with help from Liberians in the Diaspora. It was Liberian doctors  and nurses who provided the bulk of the care and cure for Ebola victims and Liberian  hands that gave the safe and dignified burials;” 

Yes, Liberians can be the first to claim victory in the Ebola response. As has been  true throughout history, it is Liberians who carried the torch to testify to the local  people’s resourcefulness, courage and capability in the face of adversity. The net  result was that several internationals visited Liberia to study how Liberians did what  they did to promote their methodology and adoption elsewhere in the world. 

Yet another lesson from the Liberian experience in tackling the EVD Scourge was the  pioneering of the PREVAIL – (Partnership for Research on Ebola virus in Liberia:  now called Partnership for Research on Vaccines and Infectious Disease in Liberia)  through the leadership of then Minister of Health, the late Dr. Walter Gwenigale’s  request to US Secretary of Health & Human Services. 

It was through that Partnership that Liberia contributed to the development of the rrsv-ZEBOV vaccine that was successfully administered in Guinea and the  Democratic Republic of Congo amongst others, to control the outbreak in those  countries.

Moreover, it was a Liberian Diaspora Medical Affairs scientist, Dr. Jestina Doe Anderson, who played a key role in this in Liberia; through the US Government CDC  (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). Other Liberian scientists and medical doctors, included Dr. Mardea Stone; Dr. Ayele Ajavon and Dr. Dougbah Chris Nyan  who formed the Diaspora Liberian Emergency Ebola Task Force. Insights into their  role and impact are part of Liberia’s Untold Story. 

The roles played by the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research (LIBR) for  laboratory diagnosis of the EVD and the Liberia Airport Authority are not to be  underestimated. 

On the Home Front we see an extraordinary number of intervention from civil society  and individuals at various levels. There is the story of the young medic from the  Liberian Army, Alfred Tamu Diggs, Emergency medicine specialist, AFL; of the  Liberian nurse, Mrs. Roselyn Nugba Ballah who led a team of committed patriots and  supervised the Liberian Red Cross safe and distinguished burial team. She was  amongst those worldwide who won the 2017 Florence Nightingale medal. Amongst  other stories was that of Dr. Christina Hena, Medical Director and CEO of Waterfield  Primary Health Care in Kakata, Margibi County, Liberia. 

Impact of EVD on trajectory of Liberia’s Growth & Development 

Of significance is that the full executive summary ends by highlighting the impact of  the EVD on the upward trajectory of Liberia’s Growth and Development. The importance lies in the fact that it was in 2014, two years into President Johnson Sirleaf’s second term, that the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, over a two-year  period, virtually set the nation back such that the gains and upward trend in the  nation’s development trajectory was adversely affected. This was a huge, deadly  diversion!  

Also pointed out in the Executive Summary is that as a credit to Liberia was the fact  that the Mano River Union member states, namely Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra  Leone appointed Liberia’s President to lead the international response for the union.  In that regard the President mobilized the World, including the US; EU; China; the  AU; ECOWAS and other countries that played important roles in helping to end the  scourge. 

Lastly, the following observations by Liberians who were actively involved in the  Ebola response concludes the Executive Summary. 

“In no other time in the history of Liberia has patriotism been seen more in  action than during the Ebola epidemic”. — Dr. Roseda Marshall 

The real Liberian mosaic was captured by those working in the Diaspora & on the Home front. In yet another quote: “if the truth has to be told, once again Liberian Women and Civil Society arose to save their country. The whole idea of the White Savior of Africa has to be  debunked as this Liberian experience demonstrates the stuff that we are made  of: Leaders with a capital “L”. — Mai Bright Urey