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UN Ebola envoy: complacency and fatigue challenge to end disease in Liberia

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The head of United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER) Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said the UN could not risk forecasting the end of the Ebola crisis in Liberia as there were still new cases that were being reported, calling for an end to fatigue and complacency without which the region would be free of the disease.


Addressing a news conference on Thursday in Monrovia on a second assessment tour of the three worst affected countries—Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone—Ahmed said there was still a need for massive community awareness and continued practice of public health protocols such as hand washing and doing away with the dead in order for the zero mark to be achieved.

He said Liberia could not be declared Ebola-free unless there was an absence of the disease in the entire region, something already agreed by all the three Mano River countries at an Ebola summit in Conakry at the weekend.

Ahmed: “Nobody would like to go on forecasting at this point. It is very simple reason: this virus has surprised us many, many times in the past. Today on the average for the last two or three weeks we have been between three to five cases in Liberia, which is less than one case a day. We all know that this whole crisis started with just one case. But it will be extremely presumptuous to make a forecast. What is very sure is that Liberia is in the right direction.”

However, apart from an MRU agenda being pursued by the three countries, he called on Liberia to continue all of the efforts exerted to reduce the number of Ebola cases it the country would achieve zero cases.

“I think it is important to realize that today our biggest enemy is complacency, it is fatigue. It is this impression that we can overlook things and go faster. I think that we be a big mistake.
“Liberia is very closed to getting to zero. This is a testament to the president, the government and community leadership and commitment of the Liberian people to help change public practices and modify social and behavioral change.

“We also need to in mind that the fight against Ebola is not only getting to zero but maintaining zero. It requires continued commitment from all sides and government in building a sustained system and capacity for improved health delivery services and for health workers to practice infection prevention and protocols and community leaders to remind against complacency... and the Liberian people to maintain the health practices that have lowered the rate of infection,” he said.
“Those are the challenges that are ahead of us.”

At the same time, we recognize the cooperation of Liberia’s neighboring countries (Guinea and Sierra Leone) and the continued leadership of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the effort of the Mano River Union to implement a strategy for surveillance for possible cross border and sharing information”.

Minister of Information, Lewis Brown: “We have begun to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  We are pleased with where we are and we know we can do more to get rid of this. We would have been able to do it without your (UN) help.