President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf says the country’s development agenda has been interrupted by the Ebola outbreak.
She observed that the Ebola pandemic which started in March and returned with intensity in June, has now spread to all the 15 political sub-divisions of the country.
In her statement on Thursday from Monrovia via video link to Washington at the High Level Event on the Impact of the Ebola crisis, President Sirleaf pointed out that with limited understanding of the disease, low human capacity and slow international response, the disease quickly outpaced the country’s ability to contain it.
The President said as a result, the disease spread to all the country’s political sub-divisions, claiming the lives of over 2,199, including 92 health care workers, while a further 6,689 citizens are being traced as contacts.
“Affecting our neighbors in Guinea and Sierra Leone, as well, restrictions imposed on air and sea travel resulted in increased cost of travel and increased commodity prices affecting the poor,” she added.
She said with support from development partners and the international community, efforts are being made to contain the epidemic.
The Liberian leader continued: “we face huge challenges to ensure controlled treatment, robust contact tracing and vigorous case management to stop transmission.”
According to the Liberian leader, citizens need to do more to change habits and attitudes through advocacy and community mobilization. She insisted that citizens need to make sure that bodies are promptly removed from the streets of cities and homes of their families.
She reiterated that more than ever, the country needs qualified and dedicated staff to join the fight against Ebola and to ensure that it all comes together immediately.
“Today, with better knowledge and capacity, and robust support from partners, including the institutions you represent, we are a bit more confident that our collective response will turn the curve away from the dire projections”, President Sirleaf observed.
The Liberian leader outlined several factors that must be instituted to contain the disease in a more timely and decisive response. “This means the construction of treatment and testing and burying centers within a time-frame of one month. By mid-November all such facilities should become fully functional with staffed health workers, both local and expatriate. “
She also stressed the need for more resources to establish community care centers with ownership and participation by communities themselves.
Secondly, President Sirleaf stressed the need to improve and strengthen the regular healthcare delivery system because many of the deaths recorded resulted from regular deaths of those who had no access to closed or non-functional health facilities.
The Liberian Chief Executive noted that this will also require support for compensation to healthcare workers who for fear of the risk involved have refused or are reluctant to return to work.
On the third count she said, “we must mitigate the economic consequences of the Ebola crisis which have caused a shifting of resources from ongoing operations under our Agenda for Transformation.”
She said this will require stimulation of the country’s productive sectors, particularly agriculture. The President said this will also require significant support to completion of ongoing infrastructure projects primarily power, roads, ports and water which are vital to improved access to and quality of health care.
“Finally, I want you to know that our Government remains firm in its commitment and resolve to meet the challenges of this crisis by ensuring a fully integrated coordination and decision-making structure around a unified strategy and implementation mechanism with full transparency and accountability involving both domestic and expatriate accounting and auditing institutions,” she said.
She then extended her appreciation to all for the tremendous support Liberia received “as we travelled the road of economic and social recovery and for joining us in meeting the challenges of the Ebola crisis ensuring that our renewed healthcare system will prevent a recurrence and our economic gains are restored.”