Liberia after Ebola — how human nature affects our response to disease

(By: Catharine Young)

Traveling through the streets of Monrovia, Liberia, I am struck by the city’s contrasts. Bursts of color highlight the fragile shells of businesses and houses. The summer air is soft, but the faces of the local people are somber. It’s hard to believe that this gentle place was the scene of a hard fight against one of most contagious and deadliest viruses ever seen in Western Africa.

Through an extraordinary national and international effort, the virus was contained here in Liberia. Now, the international response has begun to wind down, transitioning from response to recovery. But the healing of the invisible wounds that remain with the survivors has only just begun.

I visited Liberia in early December with a group from the United States government to assess what the country now needs to emerge from the Ebola crisis. Being there brought the devastation home to me. I learned that, in a way, all Liberians are considered survivors of Ebola: the people who were infected and physically overcame the disease; the people whose loved ones and family members had the virus; the people who worked on the frontline as healthcare workers; and most sobering, the children who are now orphaned. At the height of the outbreak in Liberia, 10,675 patients were diagnosed with the virus, and 4,809 died. To put this in perspective, the population of Liberia is only around 4 million, which means that 1 in 375 people had the virus, and 1 in 840 citizens died of it. READ MORE OF THIS STORY

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