It was with great happiness and relief that Liberia was declared Ebola-free on Saturday, May 9, 2015. While the country has gone over 42 days without a death from this disease, it also experienced far more deaths than any other African nation with 4,769 victims.
The disease spread quickly for many reasons including an inherent mistrust in government. I would like to congratulate President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the end to this deadly and disruptive crisis.
She showed tremendous courage and patience in the very difficult decisions she had to make all while dealing with a system and subculture where many of those involved in Liberia’s government lack integrity. She showed great determination in ensuring our country became rid of this disease.
While Liberia can celebrate the end of this crisis, our neighbors are continuing to fight and hope for an end to their own epidemics. Guinea and Sierra Leone have seen a slowdown in the spread of Ebola but are still experiencing deaths.
The President will have to continue to take the necessary and sometimes difficult steps to be certain Liberia remains free of Ebola as there is a fear that it can easily cross back into our country and take hold again.
We must also restart efforts such as the vaccination program that was stopped to focus on the Ebola problem. Vaccinations, such as for measles is imperative to keeping our children safe and healthy. Recently the experts at the University of Southampton said as many as 5,000 West African children are at risk if the vaccinations do not start again soon. Our government must continue to work hard to keep all Liberians safe and healthy.
In an effort to strengthen Liberia and Liberians, I encourage President Sirleaf to establish a National Workforce Development Board that will strategize about job creation nationwide and support small business establishment among Liberians.
As an example, the residents of West Point recently renovated its school with the help of United Nations and other donors. They also organized themselves and successfully saw an end to the disease a full five months before the rest of the country. Sadly, their own government’s involvement was lacking; this is an example of where a strong and supportive government can build a great nation. We can still do that.
I urge her to revamp and support the country’s Peace and National Reconciliation process as well as to continue to be bold and tough during the final years of her last term to ensure that ordinary Liberians become the true beneficiaries of her leadership.
Jones Nhinson Williams is the founder and president of the New Liberia Foundation. Williams, a Catholic educated, and an internationally-known human rights activist and a policy advisor, native to southeast Liberia. In the 1990s and early 21st century, Williams gained fame for his strict criticism and outspokenness against former Liberian President and warlord, Charles Taylor.
Williams graduated from New York University’s School of Public Service with an Executive MPA in 2006. After watching the ineptitude and corruption of the Liberian leadership of the past 10 years, Williams now believes that the time is right for his return to Liberia to lead the nation to unity, growth and prosperity for future generations of Liberians to follow.