By C. Winnie Saywah-Jimmy
President Ellen Johnsons Sirleaf says there is a need for an urgent transition from treatment to prevention in the Ebola strategy as Liberia now reports how 13 out of its 15 counties are recording no new cases in the last 21 days.
“Today we take pride Lofa the epic center of the virus has no new cases for 70 days and the Ebola treatment center in Foya is closed. The 103 beds in six community care centers and 13 of the 19 constructed Ebola Treatment Units which were currently operational have only 47 patients. We have an average of only 1 to 2 new cases per day in the only two effected counties, Montserrado and Grand Cape Mount,” she reported.
The Liberian leader’s Administration’s Legislative Agenda presented yesterday at a joint Legislative session held in the joint chambers of the Capitol Building was a highlight of how there were declines in systems and government structures due to the Ebola menace which began the early part of the year under review.
She admitted that the outbreak exposed the vulnerability of the country’s health system to respond to basic healthcare needs coupled with the existing lack in infrastructure and maintenance that is roads, power, water and sanitation especially in the rural communities compounded the problems.
President Sirleaf, among other things encouraged Liberians to work and support the sisterly countries of Sierra Leone and Guinea that are still being affected with the Ebola virus and reporting high numbers per day so that the region be altogether declared Ebola-free.
Madam Sirleaf said with the reported number of 404 public healthcare facilities supplemented by 252 private facilities across the country, the nation still lags behind disclosing that as it stands, there are 2.6 doctors per 10, 000 inhabitants.
The Liberian leader reminded Liberians saying, “We are not out of the woods,” as she also reported a total of 1,401 persons said to have been cured while the epidemic has left 3, 000 to be catered for in the country.
On the issue of systems breakdown, President Sirleaf has called on Liberians to begin anticipating that the growth of the country rests on every citizen with “No room for blame shifting, if never in the past this is the time for us to unite as one government to deliver the promises to our people, ” noting that the support Liberia enjoys today from international partners will not last.
She said the building of the nation will rest on the shoulders of Liberians and reiterated that the Ebola crisis hampered all the systems of the country including its economy thereby showing a sharp decline in its domestic and mining sectors from a projected 5.9 percent to an initial 0.4 percent.
President Sirleaf said as a result, the fiscal gaps increased by 33 million and the expenditure demand increased also thereby informing the Legislature that due to the Ebola outbreak, the future of the country’s growth was seriously challenged.
She expressed how radical changes are required in the economy and government structures if Liberia’s growth rate is to reflect an increase as 8 percent as it was in 2013 when it reflected 8.3. President Sirleaf said the economic response shifted but noted that the government took appropriate measures not to have an economic collapse.
“We will carry this load only if we are prepared to make Liberia our home rather than our intermittent earning places, only if we give back to our country’s development the resources taken from it,” President Sirleaf challenged Liberians thereby extending the payment of taxes to members of the three Branches of government.
“Even though the pains inflicted on our national pride by the Ebola crisis provides an opportunity to search our souls, to ask ourselves if we have been truthful and honest to the commitment made in 2006 when we embarked on his journey together, to ask ourselves if we have served our country and people well,…We are defeating Ebola and the same spirit of unity and patriotism will enable us to blow the winds that keep Liberia rising,” she concluded.
Meanwhile, in other Ebola related news, the medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) is also expected to decommission the first section of the ELWA 3 Ebola Management Center in Monrovia this week. The number of beds had previously been reduced from 250 to 60, but now it’s the first time a part of the center is actually taken apart.
To prevent any risks of contamination, most of the rubbles from the contaminated zone will be burnt on site. A first fire took place on Monday honoring patients, affected families, ELWA 3 workers and communities.
While scaling down, MSF confirmed that the number of new Ebola cases in Liberia has significantly reduced. To date, it has 510 patients who have recovered from Ebola after receiving medical and psychosocial care in ELWA 3.
MSF established the largest Ebola management center ever built in August last year as part of its regional response to curb the spread of the world’s largest Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
Though Liberia is today reporting the least number of cases, one single case of Ebola can revive the outbreak. It’s essential to remain vigilant, very reactive and coordinated in order to respond immediately if a new person gets infected.