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Liberia celebrates end of Ebola
May 11, 2015 | 0 Comments

Liberia's President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson (R) shakes hands with Jerry Brown, a medical director and surgeon who helped lead the fight aganst Ebola, on May 9, 2015 in Monrovia (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) Liberia’s President Ellen Sirleaf Johnson (R) shakes hands with Jerry Brown, a medical director and surgeon who helped lead the fight aganst Ebola, on May 9, 2015 in Monrovia (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)[/caption] Monrovia (AFP) – Thousands of Liberians gathered Monday to celebrate the end of Ebola after the country was officially given the all-clear from an epidemic that has killed more than 4,700 people.

The government declared a public holiday to allow pupils and workers take part in a festival in the capital Monrovia featuring traditional dance and contemporary music.

Students sang joyfully and waved placards with slogans including “bye bye Ebola”, “we are the winner” and “we will always overcome”.

The ceremony began on a sombre note however with testimonials from health workers and other staff in the country’s Ebola treatment units (ETUs), as well as survivors and body disposal team members.

“When I contracted the Ebola virus I was carried to the ETU, where all those who were in the centre with me died. Only I survived,” said Tee Love Lorseh.

“While I was there my father and my mother died from the disease.”

The WHO said in a statement on Saturday that 42 days had passed since the last person confirmed with the virus in Liberia was buried.

That period is double the number of days the virus requires to incubate, and WHO hailed its eradication as an enormous development in the crisis.

The agency warned however that because Ebola outbreaks were continuing in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, the risk remained high that infected people could re-enter the country.

Dignitaries at Monday’s ceremony included Togolese President Faure Gnassingbe, who congratulated the Liberian people for their “wonderful job”.

“Ebola is an ally of silence and slow reaction. This should be a lesson for us in Africa. Quick reaction is needed in fighting a virus,” he said.

[caption id="attachment_18093" align="alignright" width="300"]Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown (L) wears a t-shirt reading "Liberia is free from Ebola" during the World Health Organization announcement of the end of Ebola in Liberia, on May 9, 2015 in Monrovia (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown (L) wears a t-shirt reading “Liberia is free from Ebola” during the World Health Organization announcement of the end of Ebola in Liberia, on May 9, 2015 in Monrovia (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)[/caption]

Liberian lawmaker Saah Joseph, recognised as a key figure in the country’s Ebola response and nicknamed “The Hero” in local media, recalled the dark days of the epidemic.

“One day we carried more than 300 bodies to Redemption Hospital. We had to remove some to the Island Clinic. When we got there, we had more bodies. It was difficult for me, frustrating, but we had to do the job,” he said.

The WHO’s “Ebola-free” declaration was officially handed by the agency’s country representative Alex Gasasira to Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who thanked citizens for eradicating the virus.

“My special thanks go to the security apparatus. They were heroes,” she said.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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WHO declares Liberia Ebola-free
May 10, 2015 | 0 Comments

A man walks past an ebola campaign banner with the new slogan 'Ebola Must GO' in Monrovia on February 23, 2015 (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso) A man walks past an ebola campaign banner with the new slogan ‘Ebola Must GO’ in Monrovia on February 23, 2015 (AFP Photo/Zoom Dosso)[/caption] Monrovia (AFP) – The UN health agency on Saturday declared Liberia Ebola-free, hailing the “monumental” achievement in the west African country where the virus has killed more than 4,700 people.

“The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over,” the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a statement, adding that 42 days had passed since the last confirmed case was buried.

That period is double the number of days the virus requires to incubate, and WHO hailed its eradication as an enormous development in the long crisis.

“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,” it said.

The declaration was a source of both great pride to Liberians who had been stalked by the deadly virus they simultaneously sought to battle.

“We are out of the woods. We are Ebola free. Thanks to our partners for standing with us in the fight against Ebola. We are Liberians,” tweeted Liberian Information Minister Lewis Brown.

The news was also cheered by international organisations like the Red Cross, Unicef and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), as well as officials from the US and European Union.

However whailing the “important marker” White House spokesman Josh Earnest, in a statement, said: “The world must not forget that the Ebola outbreak still persists in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea.

“We must not let down our guard until the entire region reaches and stays at zero Ebola cases.”

– Relief and sorrow –

The WHO warned that because the Ebola outbreaks were continuing in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, the risk remained high that infected people could re-enter the country.

Because of that risk, MSF also tempered its applause of the declaration with reminders that the crisis will not be over for any one nation until the virus has been eradicated everywhere.

For average Liberians, the development was a source of both relief and sorrow.

“I lost a brother in the Ebola crisis so I am happy and sad,” said 40 year-old Monrovia taxi driver Nyaningo Kollie.

During the two months of peak transmission last August and September the capital 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 day,” noted WHO official Alex Gasasira, who read the organisation’s statement Saturday.

At the height of the crisis in late September Liberia was suffering more than 400 new cases a week, with uncollected and highly infectious bodies piling up in the streets of Monrovia, a sprawling, chaotic city at the best of times.

The health system — embryonic before the crisis, with some 50 doctors and 1,000 nurses for 4.3 million people — was devastated, losing 189 health workers out of 275 infected.

“At one point, virtually no treatment beds for Ebola patients were available anywhere in the country,” Gasasira recalled.

Schools remained shut after the summer holidays, unemployment soared as the formal and black-market economies collapsed and clinics closed as staff died and non-emergency healthcare ground to a halt.

And then, as suddenly as it had spread, Ebola retreated.

– ‘Thank all Liberians’ –

Liberia, which had recorded 389 deaths in one week in October alone, saw fatality counts dropping below 100 within weeks, and into single figures by the start of 2015.

During a WHO-hosted ceremony Saturday in the Ebola crisis cell in Monrovia, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf saluted her fellow citizens and health workers for rising to the crisis.

“I thank all Liberians for the effort. When Ebola came, we were confused. We called on our professionals. They put their best in the fight, this is the result I have sent a message to the international community to thank them,” she said.

In the coming years there will be a reckoning on the response to the greatest ever Ebola outbreak, which left 11,000 dead.

The West was initially accused of ignoring the crisis and then treating Liberia and its neighbours as pariahs, blocking flights and quarantining returning health workers after the first-ever domestic infections outside of Africa, in the US and Spain.

The WHO, at times seen as overly bureaucratic and politicised, was berated for waiting until August — almost five months after the outbreak was identified — to declare it a “public health emergency of international concern.”

“Quite simply, we were all too late. The world – including MSF – was slow to start the response from the beginning,” said MSF’s head of Ebola operations in Brussels, Henry Gray, in a statement.

*Source AFP/Yahoo]]>

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Liberia Days Away From Being Ebola-Free, Official Says
May 7, 2015 | 0 Comments

FILE - Axel Addy, Liberia's minister for commerce and industry, shown at a U.N. news conference in September 2014, says his country is is putting in place a management system to deal with another disease-related emergency, should one arise. FILE – Axel Addy, Liberia’s minister for commerce and industry, shown at a U.N. news conference in September 2014, says his country is is putting in place a management system to deal with another disease-related emergency, should one arise.[/caption] Liberia’s minister of commerce and industry says Liberia has had no new cases of Ebola for a while and is near the point at which it can be declared Ebola-free.

“May 9 is our magic date,” Minister Axel Addy said. “If there are no new cases, and I believe there will be no new cases, we will have met the threshold. Some of the Ebola treatment centers have actually been decommissioned, and there are others that are being decommissioned.” Addy told VOA that the government knows Ebola could recur and is putting in place a management system to deal with another emergency, should it arise. “It includes putting in place the right health infrastructure to deal with the response, to track any sort of new potential cases and to monitor what is happening along the borders,” he said. Besides strengthening its health system and protecting its people from the possibility of a new outbreak of this deadly disease, Liberia is faced with the huge task of reviving its economy.  Before Ebola struck, Liberia was projecting a 2014 gross domestic product growth rate of between 5.9 and 7 percent.  After the crisis hit, GDP dipped to below 1 percent. Augustine Jarret, Liberia’s minister of state without portfolio, said the Ebola crisis has had a cascading effect on all aspects of the economy, especially on Liberia’s two main products, rubber and iron ore.  He said companies closed, thousands of people lost their jobs and farms became idle, stripping thousands of farmers of their income. He said it was clear that Liberia cannot remain dependent on two products and must diversify into other areas.  He said Liberia plans to put more emphasis on working with the private sector as opposed to the government side. “Most of what we have seen in many, many decades before is that most of the people who work in Liberia work in the government sector, and that is going to change,” Jarret said. “Our focus is on the private sector — private-sector jobs, private-sector investments, and trying to move the economy in the direction where private sector players are the drivers of our economic growth and vitality.” The Liberian ministers said they were working hard to attract private investment to help build up infrastructure and to revive major road, bridge and other construction projects that had stopped during the Ebola epidemic. They noted that a lot of money and work would be expended on reviving the agriculture sector, in which 70 percent of the labor force is employed.
  *Source VOA]]>

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Ex-Liberia President Charles Taylor to stay in UK prison
March 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Taylor was transferred to the UK in 2013 Taylor was transferred to the UK in 2013[/caption]

Ex-Liberian President Charles Taylor has been ordered to serve the rest of his jail term in the UK, after losing a request to be transferred to Rwanda.

He had argued that he was being denied his rights to a family life, because his wife and children had not been granted UK visas. The judges rejected this argument, saying they had not properly applied. A UN-backed court convicted him of war crimes over his support for rebels who committed atrocities in Sierra Leone. As well as complaining about not being able to see his family, Taylor argued he was being held “effectively in isolation” because he was “too much of a target and too vulnerable” to be kept with other inmates of the Frankland prison in the northern English city of Durham. He further said he wanted to be on the African continent, where people would share a “cultural affinity” with him. However, the court found that the rejection of his wife’s visa was “due purely to his wife’s failure to comply with the United Kingdom visa requirements and her ignoring the assistance offered to her [by the registrar’s office] to re-apply”. It further stressed that prisoners did not have the right to choose their place of incarceration. The Special Court for Sierra Leone trial was held at The Hague on the agreement that he was jailed elsewhere. The overseas venue for the court case was chosen in case the trial sparked renewed unrest in West Africa. An act of parliament was passed to allow for Taylor to serve his sentence in the UK, at the cost of the British government, following his conviction. Taylor was sentenced in 2012 and arrived in the UK last October, having unsuccessfully challenged the decision to be detained there. Taylor was convicted on 11 charges including terrorism, rape, murder and the use of child soldiers by rebel groups in neighbouring Sierra Leone during the 1991-2002 civil war, in which some 50,000 people died. The former Liberian leader was found to have supplied weapons to the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebels in exchange for so-called blood diamonds. The rebels were notorious for hacking off the limbs of civilians to terrorise the population. Taylor has always insisted he is innocent and that his only contact with the rebels was to urge them to stop fighting. *Source BBC]]>

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Ebola outbreak 'over by August', UN suggests
March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Smitha Mundasad*

_81829766_dc893fec-f025-467b-93ee-861f8420aac6The Ebola outbreak in West Africa will be over by August, the head of the UN Ebola mission has told the BBC.

Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed admitted the UN had made mistakes in handling the crisis early on, sometimes acting “arrogantly”. A year after the outbreak was officially declared, the virus has killed more than 10,000 people. The medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres says a “global coalition of inaction” led to tragic consequences. Looking back over the year, the charity suggests its early calls for help were ignored by local governments and the World Health Organization. Most deaths occurred in the worst-affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The head of the UN Ebola response mission told the BBC, when the virus first struck, “there was probably a lack of knowledge and there was a certain degree of arrogance, but I think we are learning lessons. “We have been running away from giving any specific date, but I am pretty sure myself that it will be gone by the summer.”

‘Turned away’

The first person to succumb to the disease during this outbreak is thought to have been a toddler in a remote part of Guinea. He died in December 2013. Three months later the WHO officially announced an outbreak. And it was a further five months before the organisation declared it a public health emergency of international concern. At this point more than 1,000 people had lost their lives. Henry Gray, MSF emergency coordinator, told the BBC: “We were well aware this was something different in March and April last year and we did try to bring this to the attention of the WHO but also governments within the countries affected.

Ebola deaths

Figures up to 21 March 2015

10,314

Deaths – probable, confirmed and suspected
(Includes one in the US and six in Mali)
  • 4,296 Liberia
  • 3,742 Sierra Leone
  • 2,261 Guinea
  • 8 Nigeria
    “And of course it was frustrating that we weren’t heard and that has probably led to the scale of the epidemic we see today.” The charity says it should also have used more of its own resources earlier in the crisis. The analysis, which includes dozens of interviews with MSF staff, says by the end of August 2014 treatment centres in Liberia where overwhelmed. In January 2015 at a rare emergency meeting, the WHO admitted it was too late to respond. Dr Margaret Chan, director general, said: “The world, including WHO, was too slow to see what was unfolding before us.”

Continued threat

But the organisation says it made it clear from the start “this was a very serious situation”. There are now proposals to build-up a rapid response team to react more swiftly to future threats. _81805830_ebola_weekly_cases_gra624_v2Case numbers are falling but MSF says the outbreak is not yet over. Overall cases have not declined significantly since January, the charity warns. Liberia recorded its first case in more than two weeks on Friday, dashing hopes the country would soon be declared virus-free. In Guinea, cases are rising again after a dip at the beginning of the year. Some patients in Sierra Leone are are not on lists of known Ebola contacts, suggesting chains of spread are going undetected. Dr Derek Gatherer, at Lancaster University, said: “In retrospect, it is now apparent that the delay from December to March was crucial in the dissemination of the virus to several locations in eastern Guinea and then onto the capital, Conakry, which remains one of the few areas with active transmission.” But until zero cases are recorded in all three worst-affected countries for a period of at least six weeks, the outbreak will not be officially declared over. *BBC]]>

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Ebola: Liberia's Johnson Sirleaf urges 'Marshall Plan'
March 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

The infection rate is significantly lower - but the fight is not yet over The infection rate is significantly lower – but the fight is not yet over[/caption]

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has called for a “Marshall Plan” for the Ebola-affected countries of West Africa.

She was referring to the massive US aid programme for Europe launched after World War Two. Her comments came after Sierra Leone was immediately granted more than $80m (£52m) to help end the Ebola outbreak and recover from its effects. The IMF has pledged a $187m financial aid package for Sierra Leone. Nearly $5bn has been pledged internationally to the Ebola effort, but less than half of the help has materialised. About 600 delegates from around the world met in Brussels on Tuesday to talk about Ebola and long-term plans to fight the disease. Nearly 10,000 people have died in the outbreak, the vast majority in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This meeting is not a donor pledging conference – it marks the beginning of a new conversation, whose objectives could be difficult to achieve. It comes at a time when new cases of infection are significantly down. Compared to HIV 30 years ago, this Ebola epidemic was met by a better organised international community. But even so, the pledges for support and actual disbursement of aid were slow to come. With the epidemic seemingly under control, the next phase – recovery – is going to be longer and more challenging. The call is for a process led and owned by the affected countries. But real recovery will only be achieved if there is complementary long-term commitment from donor countries – a clear intervention with definitive objectives and timelines. And the bar for transparency and accountability will no doubt be raised. Speaking in Brussels, Ms Sirleaf said: “We believe that a regional approach would achieve the best recovery results. This can only be achieved with your support, the support of partners who will be willing to allocate resources to a regional plan that is home-grown.” “There is no doubt that this will require significant resources, perhaps even a Marshall Plan… We believe however that this can be achieved through allocation of the additional resources committed by the European Commission”, she said. “Resources can also be sourced from the CCR [Catastrophe Containment and Relief] Trust Fund established by the International Monetary Fund and by regional envelopes by the World Bank and the African Development Bank.” ‘Painstaking task’ On Monday the UN said that the struggle to contain the epidemic was reaching a “second phase”. UN experts say the spread of the disease in West Africa has dropped to almost 10% of what it was six months ago. Liberia in particular continues to have a low level of transmission, with only one new confirmed case in the week leading to 22 February. This compares to 34 in Guinea and 63 in Sierra Leone. But the UN special envoy on Ebola, David Nabarro, told AP that the international community should not become complacent as getting to zero cases was “the hardest part”. “It’s a really difficult, painstaking task,” he said. The BBC’s Anne Soy, in Brussels, says that there is a danger of donor fatigue, even though the Ebola outbreak has received a lot of attention from the international community. The healthcare systems of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone will also need help to recover from the effects of the outbreak. Scarce healthcare resources have had to be directed to controlling the epidemic and it has become harder to get treatment for other diseases. *Source BBC]]>

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Obama touts Ebola progress with Liberian president
February 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

images.jpg 5President Obama touted progress on stopping Ebola in a meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday. The number of cases has fallen 95 percent from its peak, down to a “handful” a week, Obama said. “We are very proud of what Liberia has accomplished, and we’ve been very proud to be partners with Liberia in that process,” Obama said. Earlier this month, the White House announced that all but 100 of the 2,800 U.S. troops that had been fighting the disease in West Africa would return home by the end of April. “I am very proud of the participation of the United States,” Obama said, pointing to the U.S. troops’ work in helping with issues such as logistics and safe burial practices. Sirleaf made reference to the political furor that surrounded Ebola in the United States in the fall. Many Republicans were pushing for a travel ban from affected countries. “We know that there was some pressure here to be able to stop any travel of people from Liberia or from the other affected countries,” Sirleaf said. “But we want to thank you for standing firm and resisting that pressure, and rallying the American people to see this for what it was and to join partnership with Liberia and others to be able to confront it.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-8cg8cOki8   Obama warned against being “complacent” despite the progress, and said strengthening the economy and rebuilding infrastructure now that the disease has faded are priorities. “We’re now also in a position to look towards the future,” he said. *Source The Hill]]>

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Liberia leader urges help in post-Ebola phase
February 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

By ADAM SCHRECK* [caption id="attachment_16578" align="alignleft" width="300"]Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks to The Associated Press during an interview in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Liberia's leader is urging the United States and other countries to keep up their support to the West African nation as it recovers from the Ebola epidemic and refocuses attention on infrastructure projects that will better position it to tackle future outbreaks of disease. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili) Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaks to The Associated Press during an interview in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2015. Liberia’s leader is urging the United States and other countries to keep up their support to the West African nation as it recovers from the Ebola epidemic and refocuses attention on infrastructure projects that will better position it to tackle future outbreaks of disease. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)[/caption] SHARJAH, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Liberia’s leader on Sunday urged the United States and other countries to keep up their support to the West African nation as it recovers from the Ebola epidemic and refocuses attention on infrastructure projects that will better position it to tackle future outbreaks of disease.

In an interview with The Associated Press, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said Liberia needs outside help to see through its “post-Ebola agenda” of building up basic public services — development that she said was needed to prevent another deadly epidemic from becoming “a global menace.”

Among the needs she highlighted were power projects to keep hospital equipment running, roads so the sick can access medical facilities, and clean water to prevent diseases from spreading.

“Our own limited resources have not enabled us to take them to the level where they could … be in a preventive mode. And that’s the support we want,” she said.

“The great lesson in all these things, you know, whether you’re dealing with conflict or whether you’re dealing with disease, is to emphasize prevention rather than cure. It costs so much when you have to fix it,” added Sirleaf, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011.

Deeply impoverished Liberia was one of the countries hardest hit in the West Africa Ebola outbreak that began last year and ranks as the largest in history. It has seen more than 9,000 confirmed, suspected and probable cases, and 3,900 deaths.

Liberia, founded in 1847 by freed American slaves, has long had close ties to the U.S.

Sirleaf was elected president in 2005 after years of civil war, and was re-elected to a final term six years later. She is in the United Arab Emirates city of Sharjah, near Dubai, to address the International Government Communication Forum.

She will travel to Washington later this week to meet with President Barack Obama to discuss the Ebola response and the region’s economic recovery.

Sirleaf acknowledged that her country could have been more aggressive in fighting the epidemic at the outset. But she also said she wished the U.S. and other developed countries, with their better resources and expertise, would have moved faster.

“We were slow. The world was slow. Everybody was fearful. It was an unknown enemy,” she said, adding that she was grateful for the international help — including 2,800 American troops deployed to the region — when it arrived.

That outside support helped bring the epidemic under control, allowing life to start returning to normal. Schools began re-opening last week, and Sirleaf on Friday ordered the lifting of an overnight curfew set up in August to try to contain the disease.

The president has also called for the country’s land border posts to be reopened. Officials on Sunday held a ceremony announcing that Liberia’s border with Sierra Leone was officially opened.

The disease has not been wiped out entirely, though.

Eight patients who have tested positive are still being cared for in Liberian treatment centers, and eight health care workers in the capital Monrovia are being kept under observation after they came in contact with a patient who tested positive.

Sirleaf cautioned that more must be done. That concern is echoed by experts who have warned that recent setbacks in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone could imperil the regional effort to fight the disease.

In Guinea, where the outbreak began, 52 new cases were reported in the latest World Health Organization update, and health workers continue to face security threats as they try to trace contacts, discourage unsafe burials and educate communities. Sierra Leone is recording the most cases, with 74 included in the latest WHO update.

“Now’s not the time to be complacent or to pull out or to … stop the support. Now’s the time to really intensify it so we put in those proper preventive measures to make sure there’s no recurrence,” Sirleaf said.

The U.S. is preparing to withdraw nearly all of the troops it deployed last year to help stem the spread of the Ebola outbreak. About 100 will remain to work with Liberia’s military, regional partners and American civilians.

Jeremy Konyndyk, director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development, said more than 10,000 civilian personnel from various countries will remain engaged in the fight against Ebola in West Africa long after the U.S. military pulls out. That figure includes members of non-governmental organizations working on Ebola and United Nations employees.

“The civilian capacity that is now in place is several times greater than the military capacity that was here,” he said in an interview during a visit to Monrovia. “We are planning to keep that capacity in place as much as it’s needed.”

*Source AP/Yahoo]]>

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Liberia to end Ebola curfew, open land border crossings
February 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

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[caption id="attachment_16519" align="alignleft" width="300"]Liberian school children wash their hands before entering their classrooms as part of the Ebola prevention measures at Cathedral High School as students arrive in the morning to attend class in Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Students in Liberia began returning to the classroom Monday after a six-month closure during the Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead in this West African country.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh) Liberian school children wash their hands before entering their classrooms as part of the Ebola prevention measures at Cathedral High School as students arrive in the morning to attend class in Monrovia, Liberia, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015. Students in Liberia began returning to the classroom Monday after a six-month closure during the Ebola epidemic that left thousands dead in this West African country.(AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)[/caption]

MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Liberia’s president on Friday ordered officials to lift an overnight curfew put in place six months ago to fight the Ebola epidemic and to reopen the country’s land border crossings.

The new orders from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which take effect Sunday, offer another sign that normal life is resuming in the West African nation as officials work toward eradicating the disease entirely.

Once the center of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, Liberia has recorded more than 9,000 confirmed, suspected and probable cases and 3,900 deaths. However, the most recent update from the World Health Organization reported only two cases in the previous week, and schools began reopening earlier this week.

Friday’s statement said Sirleaf made her decision about the curfew and borders “on the advice of the National Security Council of Liberia.”

The curfew was imposed last August when the epidemic was raging. It originally lasted from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m., though officials later pushed the start time back to midnight.

The statement said Sirleaf had ordered that “the country’s main borders” be opened. That includes the borders with Sierra Leone and Guinea, but it wasn’t immediately clear if the border with Ivory Coast would be reopened, because Ivory Coast closed its borders in August.

Sierra Leone recorded 74 new cases in the latest WHO update and transmission remains widespread there, while Guinea recorded 52 cases.

Sirleaf’s announcement comes as she prepares to visit the White House next week. In a statement, the White House said President Barack Obama and Sirleaf would discuss the current Ebola response and the region’s economic recovery plans during their Feb. 27 meeting.

The United States is preparing to withdraw most of the nearly 3,000 troops dispatched to West Africa last year to help combat the outbreak.

*Source Yahoo/AP
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AfDB Board mulls sustained holistic approaches to defeat Ebola
February 18, 2015 | 0 Comments

indexExecutive Directors of the African Development Bank Group on Friday, February 13, 2015 in Abidjan discussed the imperative to eradicate the Ebola Virus Disease, which has affected nearly 23,000 and killed over 9,000 people in West Africa (mainly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia).   Reviewing the Bank’s efforts to contain the disease, the AfDB Board members observed that the disease has in effect exposed the weaknesses of healthcare and related systems in the countries concerned in particular and on the African continent as a whole.   Ebola first appeared in 1976 in two simultaneous outbreaks at Nzara, Sudan, and Yambuku near the Ebola River (from which the disease derived its name) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.   Prior to 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) recorded 12 other occurrences and reoccurrences of the disease in Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, South Africa, Uganda, and Congo-Brazzaville.   The current outbreak in West Africa is considered to be the largest and most complex of its kind. It can be traced back to a single case in December 2013 in Guinea, after which it spread across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia; and through one traveller to Nigeria, and to Senegal and Mali, where it was eventually contained with no new cases reported.   Although the disease was reported to have substantially declined toward the end of 2014, new outbreaks in previously unaffected areas have been reported in Guinea and Sierra Leone in the past two weeks. The reported resurgence of Ebola is an indication that counters measures are needed to be strengthened underscoring the need for a sector-wide strategy within and across countries to tackle the disease in the medium and long term.   Two presentations made by senior Bank staff provided a graphic picture of the Ebola situation in West Africa, its pervasive impact and the Bank’s leadership role in efforts to contain the disease.   The presentations also illustrated how the most active segment of the labour force, including women (who drive many economic sectors and who run the risk of being infected as primary care-givers), in the countries concerned are being “decimated”.   Agriculture and education are among the worst-hit areas, with economic losses estimated at US $113 million (5.1% of GDP) for Liberia; US $95 million (2.1% of GDP) for Sierra Leona and US $120 million (1.8% of GDP) for Guinea.   Several Board Members commended management and staff for leading the fight to contain Ebola by mobilising a total of US $223 million that complemented national and international efforts in addition to coordinating dialogues and strategies at national and global levels.   They urged management to leverage the AfDB’s convening power to bring other development partners together and coordinate actions that would help build structures to contain the disease definitively. *AFDB]]>

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Roughly $1.8 Billion in Ebola Relief Donations Haven't Made it to Africa
February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

By * [caption id="attachment_16172" align="alignleft" width="300"] A burial team wearing protective clothing, prepare to enter the home a person suspected of having died of the Ebola virus, in Freetown September 28, 2014. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters A burial team wearing protective clothing, prepare to enter the home a person suspected of having died of the Ebola virus, in Freetown September 28, 2014. Christopher Black/WHO/Handout via Reuters[/caption]

Nearly 40 percent of the funding pledged to help fight the Ebola epidemic has not made it to its destination, according to research published Tuesday in the British Medical Journal.

Nations and individuals have pledged a combined $2.89 billion to Ebola relief since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the epidemic a “public health emergency of international concern” in August 2014. But as of December 31, 2014, only $1.09 billion of that $2.89 billion has been actually disbursed.

“Had the resources reached the countries in a timely fashion the epidemic would not have reached the scale it did,” says Karen Grépin, an assistant professor of global health policy at New York University and author on the study. “It’s unlikely it would have gotten so far.”

According to Grépin, it is not unusual for donors to make big pledges and not always see them through. But that only covers part of the gap. The bigger problem, Grépin says, is the lack of an adequate and efficient system for soliciting funds and then disbursing them. She says this has been a latent problem at the WHO for years, but the scale of the Ebola epidemic—and, accordingly, the scale of the need—caught the world off guard.

“This was a new situation for everyone,” Grépin says. “What I found was that donors were quite generous, but the problem was delays. It took a very, very long time for donors to engage. WHO was not calling on donors to make pledges until late in the game.”

Much of the funding that did make it to countries battling Ebola did not arrive until months after the outbreak had become dire, the paper notes. It took until “at least mid-October” for the first $500 million to arrive, and the first $1 billion didn’t show up until December.

Estimating how much money to ask for also proved difficult: In August, when WHO began appealing to donors, the organization estimated $490 million would be required to stop the outbreak. Roughly six weeks later, the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated $1 billion was needed. The latest estimate is $1.5 billion.

“Clearly, international leaders have found it challenging to estimate the financial requirements to tackle this rapidly spreading outbreak,” the paper reads.

Grépin’s research indicates that as of December 31, 2014, another $1.3 billion was tied up as “firm commitment” money, or money that has been pledged and is likely to be disbursed but hasn’t yet. The U.S., by far the biggest donor with $900 million pledged, had either funded or made a “firm committment” on 95 percent of its total pledges, according to the paper. The U.K., the second-biggest donor, pledged $307 million and had paid or made a “firm committment” on 98.4 percent of it by that time. The World Bank, meanwhile, pledged $230 million, but had only funded or made a “firm committment” on 51 percent. The paper notes that the World Bank and other groups have also granted loans to Ebola-stricken countries, which were not taken into account in these figures.

Grépin says enormous political will is needed to change the way the World Health Organization calls the international community into action during epidemics like these. Now, the WHO waits until it declares a public health emergency of international concern before it begins asking the international community to respond, she says. In the case of the Ebola epidemic, the WHO was first alerted to the outbreak in March, but it did not give it that designation until August. Grépin hopes a new mechanism will be put in place to start the cycle of soliciting humanitarian assistance sooner. In addition, the international community needs to see the current Ebola outbreak through to the end.

“Now that the epidemic is dying down, people are looking away,” Grépin says. “If we don’t pay attention to this, we’ll be doing it again in a couple years.” *Source Newsweek]]>

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The Return of an Ebola Survivor
February 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

By Alison Criado-Perez*

Today Mama Sesay went home.

Today Mama Sesay went home.

Having come into our Ebola Management Centre three weeks ago, with a positive blood test, she had slowly become increasingly stronger, her symptoms had gradually disappeared, and her blood test was now negative. Giving her that result was the happy task of our mental health team; and after further counselling and advice from them, she was ready to rejoin her family and community.

In my new position as part of the outreach team that will help to monitor and control the epidemic out in the villages, along with the health promotion team I accompanied Mama Sesay on this great occasion. To survive a disease like Ebola, she was one of the lucky ones. She’d come to us before the disease had become uncontrollable, before the haemorrhagic symptoms had started, before the viral load was so high that we would not have been able to save her. As it was, we were able to help boost her immune system so that she could fight the virus and overcome it.

As we drove Mama Sesay home, I thought with sadness of a young boy who had not been so lucky. He had come into the centre a few days ago, so weak and breathless that he had to be carried on a stretcher out of the ambulance. He gave his age as fourteen, but looked about ten. As he sat weakly in the Triage area for a quick assessment, Robi, the doctor in charge of the running of the centre, with massive Ebola experience, shook his head.

“He won’t make it,” he said sadly. For some reason I had an intuition that this boy would somehow beat the odds. So I was devastated when I came on duty the following morning, looked at the board where all our patients’ numbers were displayed, and couldn’t see his. And then I saw it. With a circle and a cross beside it. Under the heading “Morgue”. Robi had been right and my misplaced optimism wrong.

But now we were on a good news journey. The land-cruiser bumped its way down the dusty, red road, lined with tall grasses and clusters of palm trees. Makeshift barriers, in place since the “lock-down” to prevent people moving from village to village, were raised to let through our vehicle with its well-known emblem. Apart from little children calling out “Opoto!” (white person) as we passed, the villages were quiet, houses locked and shuttered. A sign indicating the primary school pointed towards a building that was silent and empty. Schools have been closed since the start of the academic year, the only teaching being carried out over the radio.

As we neared her village of Yoni Bana, Mama Memuna Sesay let a small smile creep over her face. But her happiness at returning must have been marred by grief: grief for her mother, who had died from Ebola in her home, grief for her pregnant sister who had also died. She had been caring for her mother along with Memuna, and pregnant women are exceptionally vulnerable.

But there was still a large group waiting to greet Mama Sesay as we drove up, and as she stepped from the land-cruiser clapping and cheering erupted. As her three small grandchildren ran up to hug her, she beamed. It was a good moment.

One of our health promoters gave a message in the local Themne language, explaining that Mama Sesay was completely free from Ebola, that she no longer carried the infection and she had a certificate to prove it. He continued by reiterating the general Ebola message of ABC – Avoid Body Contact – and of reminding people that they should call the Alert line if anyone showed any of the symptoms of Ebola. This would go through to the District Command Centre, and a chain of reaction would begin.

After shaking her hand – the first contact I had had with her without being protected by our personal protective equipment – with many waves and cheers we left Mama Sesay, happily back once more in her community, an Ebola Survivor.

*Source MSF

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