For two years Ebola has drastically ravaged three West African countries – Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – and has taken the lives of 11,300 people according to the Guardian UK. Over 28,000 people were diagnosed with Ebola and still live with the pain and stigma of the disease. Since Liberia has not reported a single Ebola case in 42 days, the World Health Organization officially declared an end to the Ebola epidemic. Sierra Leone and Guinea have already been declared Ebola-free with 90 days of no new reported cases. However, just last week another Ebola case was discovered in Sierra Leone in the death of a 22-year-old woman, causing an outbreak of at least 100 people. Twenty-eight people have been quaratined.
Declaring all three countries free of Ebola may have been too premature, but before the latest outbreak it was a welcome relief for communities, health workers, and humanitarian organizations that have worked diligently to control the virus.
Ebola exposed severely weak health systems in the aforementioned countries. This means that should circumstances go awry, especially over the next few weeks or months, there is a real possibility that Ebola could resurface. That could still be devastating even though there have been many lessons learned about the disease, more dispatched health workers to the region, and a strengthening of health systems that were on the verge of collapse.
“These achievements could not have happened without the decisive leadership of the presidents and other national authorities of three affected countries and the engagement of all communities,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at a U.N. General Assembly meeting. “Of course, significant challenges remain. We can anticipate future flare-ups of Ebola in the coming year.”
Now that the Ebola-free milestone will be recognized by the WHO the international community is putting out an urgent call for increased funding to ensure that if an outbreak occurs again there is plenty in the coffers to stop the disease in its tracks. The major objective is to save lives. This is impossible without immediate resources at the world’s disposal.
The humanitarian community and the countries’ leadership should be praised for their efforts to halt a disease that caused so much turmoil in West Africa since 2014.