''All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing'' - Edmund Burke


S I E R R A  H E R A L D

Vol XI No 7

The tendency sometimes to protect perpetrators for the sake of peace...doesn't help society. Impunity should not be allowed to stand. - Kofi Annan on Waki report

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Sunday May 10, 2015 - Liberia is now Ebola-free and President Sirleaf and the people celebrate. It has been a good fight, a fight that often witnessed strained relations between the Liberian leader and the people. In the end they won and we join the international community in congratulating the people of Liberia for a job well done.Liberian head of State Mrs Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. She showed true leadership and commitment to the battle against the scourge.

These opening lines on the website of the World Health Organisation, the WHO, said it all. The hopes and aspirations of the people of Liberia in the battle against the deadly, vicious and treacherous killer diseases appears to have been won. The headline stated and we quote with a sense of pride that would be running through the people - "The Ebola outbreak in Liberia is over"

"Today, 9 May 2015, WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission. Forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March 2015. The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over.

Interruption of transmission is a monumental achievement for a country that reported the highest number of deaths in the largest, longest, and most complex outbreak since Ebola first emerged in 1976. At the peak of transmission, which occurred during August and September 2014, the country was reporting from 300 to 400 new cases every week.

During those 2 months, the capital city Monrovia was the setting for some of the most tragic scenes from West Africa’s outbreak: gates locked at overflowing treatment centres, patients dying on the hospital grounds, and bodies that were sometimes not collected for days. Flights were cancelled. Fuel and food ran low. Schools, businesses, borders, markets, and most health facilities were closed.

Fear and uncertainty about the future, for families, communities, and the country and its economy, dominated the national mood.

It is a tribute to the government and people of Liberia that determination to defeat Ebola never wavered, courage never faltered. Doctors and nurses continued to treat patients, even when supplies of personal protective equipment and training in its safe use were inadequate. Altogether, 375 health workers were infected and 189 lost their lives."

This is a part of the statement by the White House Press Secretary on this important milestone in the fight against the Ebola Virus Disease scourge.

"We congratulate the people of Liberia on reaching this important marker, and once again pledge our commitment to ending the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and helping to rebuild Liberia and other affected nations. As President Obama said when Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited the White House last month, “We’re proud to partner with you and we intend to see this through until the job is done.”

While this milestone is important, the world must not forget that the Ebola outbreak still persists in neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea. We must not let down our guard until the entire region reaches and stays at zero Ebola cases. And we must all work together to strengthen capacity around the world to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to outbreaks before they become epidemics."

However being declared Ebola-free though welcomed is not a time for complacency as the Uganda experience shows just how treacherous and wily the virus can be as it tries to re-establish itself in unsuspecting victims and communities. This is the time for Liberians to be more vigilant, extra vigilant we would add given the porous borders of the country with Sierra Leone and Guinea still battling to control and overcome the scourge.

The WHO statement is all too aware of the dangers of complacency. "The government is fully aware of the need to remain on high alert and has the experience, capacity, and support from international partners to do so. WHO will maintain an enhanced staff presence in Liberia until the end of the year as the response transitions from outbreak control, to vigilance for imported cases, to the recovery of essential health services."Abuse of emergency powers by security forces - Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organisation has listed a number of factors that contributed to the success of Liberia's response. Among them and first and foremost - "the leadership shown by President Sirleaf, who regarded the disease as a threat to the nation’s “economic and social fabric” and made the response a priority for multiple branches of government. Her swift and sometimes tough decisions, frequent public communications, and presence at outbreak sites were expressions of this leadership."

"Second, health officials and their partners were quick to recognize the importance of community engagement.

Health teams understood that community leadership brings with it well-defined social structures, with clear lines of credible authority. Teams worked hard to win support from village chiefs, religious leaders, women’s associations, and youth groups.

One of the first signs that the outbreak might be turned around appeared in September 2014, when cases in Lofa county, Ebola’s initial epicentre, began to decline after a peak of more than 150 cases a week in mid-August. Epidemiologists would later link that decline to a package of interventions, with community engagement playing a critical role."

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was the first leader of the three most affected countries to declare a state of emergency in dealing with the threat but she did not use it for political purposes to suppress free speech and dissent, as she lifted it as soon as she noticed a decline in the number of new infections - a sign that the battle could well be on the way to be won.

The UK-based Daily Mail has this - "Sirleaf declared the emergency regime on August 6, speaking of "a clear and present danger" from Ebola, which at the time had claimed around 1,000 lives across west Africa. She said the relaxation was "not because the fight against Ebola is over" but because recent successes in battling the epidemic had combined "to reposition our efforts to sustain our fight against the virus".

Sirleaf added that Liberia had acted "decisively" by imposing tough new regulations on closing borders, imposing curfews and quarantines, shutting schools and restricting public gatherings. Official figures show Ebola has claimed more than 5,100 lives across west Africa -- 2,836 of them in hardest-hit Liberia -- with the real death toll thought to be up to three times higher. But the Liberian government said this week new cases had dropped from a daily peak of more than 500 to around 50, confirming tentative announcements by experts worldwide of an apparent slowdown."This Liberian soldier enforcing the state of emergency reminded Liberians of the country's dreadful and vicious civil war.

To summarise - President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia declared the state of emergency on August 6, 2014 and lifted it on Thursday 13th November. One news outlet had this on the decision of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to lift the state of emergency -

"Liberia has lifted a state of emergency imposed for its "very survival" three months ago as the deadly Ebola virus was cutting a swathe through the west African nation. The announcement - the clearest sign yet that the country believes it is beating an epidemic which has claimed nearly 3,000 Liberian lives - follows a dramatic recent drop in new cases.

"I have informed the leadership of the national legislature that I will not seek an extension of the state of emergency," president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said.

Ms Sirleaf announced the emergency regime on August 6, speaking of "a clear and present danger" from Ebola, which at the time had claimed about 1,000 lives across west Africa. Parliament had been due to discuss extending the order, originally envisaged as a three-month measure, before Ms Sirleaf's intervention.

Ms Sirleaf said the relaxation was "not because the fight against Ebola is over" but because recent successes in battling the epidemic had combined "to reposition our efforts to sustain our fight against the virus". She added that Liberia had acted "decisively" by imposing tough new regulations closing borders, imposing curfews and quarantines, shutting schools and restricting public gatherings."

In neighbouring Sierra Leone, in the fiefdom of the rat the state of emergency continues as it provides the appropriate tool for the repression and persecution of perceived political opponents. Media outlets that refuse to tow the falsehood of the rat and his cronies face discrimination, denial of paid adverts and are generally perceived as the "enemy of state" linked to the opposition.


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©Sierra Herald 2002