Getting to zero, staying at zero: Liberia declared Ebola-free

Health workers at the Bong Country Ebola treatment unit in Liberia. The West African country has been declared Ebola-free. Photo by: Adam Parr / USAID / CC BY-NC

It’s official: Liberia is Ebola-free! Forty-two days have passed with zero cases of Ebola in the country!

This is a testament to the extraordinary resolve of Liberia’s communities and authorities — turning the tables on an indiscriminate epidemic, pursuing the virus into the remotest corners, and maintaining vigilance to prevent new outbreaks.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has thanked the United States for its support, which was crucial to the Ebola response.  Thanks are also due to all the other donors and to all nongovernmental organizations delivering medical supplies, providing technical support, and working with communities and health facilities on the ground.

Ultimately, however, the credit belongs to Liberians. The past year was a harrowing time, filled with fear, uncertainty and death. But it was also a time of resilience, selflessness and innumerable courageous acts, as everyone from local chiefs to private businesspeople to women’s groups and youth groups contributed in any way they could to keep their communities safe.

For our part, Africare could not be more grateful to our Africare/Liberia team. All of them are Liberians, and when faced with an impossibly difficult situation where they found themselves and their families at risk, they simply worked harder to empower their fellow countrymen and women. They are an inspiration to the rest of our staff. Their perseverance represents the collective spirit that motivated Liberians across the country to get to zero.

Liberia recorded more than 10,500 cases of Ebola, and tragically more than 4,500 people died. But let’s remember that last September the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected as many as 1.4 million cases in West Africa by January of this year. And let’s also acknowledge the heroic efforts in the country that helped almost 6,000 people to survive Ebola.

But this is not the end. Today marks a monumental milestone, and one worth celebrating. However, Ebola still lurks in the region, and it needs no passport. Liberia must rebuild its health care system, and build it back better than before, to keep the upper hand on this deadly disease, in a region where two of its neighbors are still fighting an outbreak.

Liberians working to overcome Ebola themselves was the key to their successful Ebola response. Liberia now has a homegrown recovery plan that it developed, prioritized and costed. Guinea and Sierra Leone do, too. For good measure, the plans have been vetted and deemed sound by the international community.

Liberians will need support — and massive support at that. The government will seek formal pledges in the coming months, but the scale of support needed represents only the magnitude of the task ahead. Africare strongly supports the government’s plan because Liberians have proven they will take the lead and deliver.

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About the author

  • Darius Mans

    Darius Mans is president of Africare. He joined the organization in 2010, bringing with him more than 30 years of development experience.  Prior to joining Africare, he served as acting CEO, vice president of implementation, and managing director for Africa at the Millennium Challenge Corp.  He has also held various positions at the World Bank, including director of the World Bank Institute.