An NGO warned this month that Sierra Leone and Liberia are at risk for a new deadly epidemic akin to the impact of the Ebola virus because of a lack of clean water and hygienic conditions in most homes.
WaterAid has reported that the two provisions were the “first line of defense” against infectious diseases, noting however they needed to be put in place before outbreaks began. In a statement, the British-based group disclosed that in Liberia, 24.5 percent of people do not have access to clean water. In Sierra Leone, this figure stands at more than 37 percent. WaterAid further added that when it comes to basic sanitation, the figures are even higher, with just over 83 percent in Liberia living without access to it and 86.7 percent of people in Sierra Leone. In the statement WaterAid’s Joe Lambongang disclosed that “the terrible suffering of the people of Sierra Leone and Liberia during the Ebola crisis is at high risk of being repeated in another disease epidemic if we do not see action to improve water, sanitation and hygiene practices in our communities, schools and healthcare facilities. It further indicated that “these basic provisions are the first line of defense against infectious diseases including Ebola,” adding, “to ask healthcare professionals to battle an epidemic without clean water, safe toilets and somewhere to wash their hands is unrealistic and needlessly puts lives at risk.” In June, Liberia confirmed that it was free of Ebola, effectively meaning that there were no known cases in West Africa of the tropical virus, which left more than 11,300 people dead in the region since late 2013. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared an end on 1 June to Ebola cases in Guinea, where it first broke out in December 2013, and in Sierra Leone on 17 March. According to Sierra Leone’s health ministry figures, 30 percent of the population dies every year of diseases that are passed on by contaminated water.
On 4 May, the ministry of health reported that Liberia’s last two known Ebola patients have been discharged from hospital after recovering from the deadly disease.
According to the ministry’s press spokesman, Sorbor George, the two were discharged from the Ebola Treatment Unit in the capital city Monrovia on Friday. He disclosed that “the two have been responding to the treatment and recovered from the virus last week. But thorough check-ups had to be done, and fortunately all proved them free of the virus,” adding, “this means that Liberia is again going through” the countdown “to be declared free of Ebola.”
The deadliest period in the history of the feared tropical virus wrecked the economies and health systems of the worst-hit West African nations – Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone – after it emerged in December 2013. Liberia was the country that was the worst-hit by the outbreak, which has claimed 11,300 lives. The World Health Organization (WHO) has disclosed that Ebola no longer constitutes an international emergency, however the announcement of new cases in West Africa in the past few months demonstrates the difficult of managing its aftermath.
Health officials reported on Friday, 1 April that a woman has died of Ebola in Liberia, months after the West African country was declared free of the deadly disease. The announcement also comes weeks after neighbouring Guinea also recorded a new flare-up. Just days later, on 3 April, officials confirmed that the woman’s five-year-old son has tested positive for Ebola.
According to a senior health ministry official, “a young lady in her early thirties died of Ebola yesterday at the Redemption Hospital,” adding that the government was preparing to release a statement on the new case. A hospital worker also confirmed that the woman had tested positive for the disease and died on Thursday, 31 March. Authorities are now checking everyone the woman was in contact with and ten health care workers from the hospital where the woman died are currently under observation. A source has disclosed that there are strong indications that the woman came from Guinea where they border was closed, adding that the woman had travelled with three of her children.
The new cases are a setback for Liberia, which had been declared free from transmission for a third time on 14 January. The region also continues to see a number of small flare-ups even after countries have received the all-clear. Liberia was first declared free of the disease in May 2015, however new cases emerged twice, effectively forcing officials to rese the clock in a nation where more than 4,800 people have died from the deadly virus. Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Ebola was no longer an international health emergency, warning however that flare-ups, at decreasing frequency, were expected. Last month Guinea documented a series of new infections, highlighting the difficulty in stamping out the lingering epidemic. There are currently no known cases of Ebola in Sierra Leone, however in early April, the authorities announced that they have increased security measures along with screenings and surveillance points at all border crossings with Guinea.
More than 11,300 people died over the past two years in the world’s worst Ebola epidemic on record, with nearly all of them dying in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
On Thursday 4 September, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Liberia has once again been declared free of the deadly Ebola virus, a move which prompted celebrations in the capital Monrovia.
In a statement released Thursday, the UN health agency indicated “WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission in the human population,” adding that it hailed the country’s “successful response” to the recent re-emergence of Ebola. The statement noted that “Liberia’s ability to effectively respond to the outbreak of Ebola virus disease is due to intensified vigilance and rapid response by the government and multiple partners.” While the West African country, where at the height of the epidemic last year thousands died, had already been declared Ebola-free in May, six weeks later the country saw a resurgence of the deadly virus. Six people were infected, including two who died. While many Liberian’s in the capital city welcomed the news, most are taking it with caution, noting that like the last declaration, there may be further smaller outbreaks that continue over the coming weeks and months.
Liberia was long the hardest hit in the West African Ebola outbreak, which began in December 2013 and which infected more than 28,000 people, claiming the lives of more than 11,000 in Liberia as well as in Guinea and Sierra Leone. More than 10,500 of those infections and 4,800 of the deaths occurred in Liberia.
A country is considered free of human-to-human transmission once two 21-day incubation periods have passed since the last known case tested negative for a second time. Experts however have warned that even after 42 days, the danger is not over, particularly with the fact that small numbers of cases continue to surface in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone. Liberia’s Ebola management department, Francis Karteh, has warned that while the Ebola-free announcement was a cause for celebration, complacency could not be allowed as the fight against the virus is “not yet over,” adding, “as long as there is one person with Ebola in our region, Ebola is still a threat.” Karteh further added that “the Ministry of Health and its partners will continue monitoring Liberia’s borders and rebuilding the healthcare system to assure that Liberians remain safe.”
On Monday, thousands of Liberians gathered to celebrate the end of Ebola after the country was declared free of the deadly disease that has killed more than 4,700 people. Several dignitaries participated in the celebration, including the President of Togo, along with guests from the African Union, Ghana and Nigeria. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf closed the celebrations by recommitting herself to helping the governments and people of neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone to overcome the disease.
In a statement released Saturday 9 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) indicated that 42 days had passed since the last person confirmed with the virus in Liberia was buried. On Monday, the Liberian government declared a public holiday in order to allow workers and students to take part in a festival in the capital city, Monrovia. The ceremony however began on a sombre note, with testimonials from health workers and other staff in the country’s Ebola treatment units (ETU’s) as well as survivors and body disposal team members.
The WHO has hailed the eradication of the deadly disease in Liberia as an enormous development in the crisis, which has affected the West African region for over a year. However the United Nations agency has warned that because outbreaks are continuing in neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone, the risk remains high that infected people could re-enter the country. More than 4,700 people died during the Ebola crisis in Liberia, which remains the hardest-hit country by the outbreak. Neighbouring Guinea and Sierra Leone continue to report new cases on a weekly basis. While the number of new cases being reported has significantly declined in recent months, officials in both countries have noted that they have had difficulty in tracing new cases.
Latest figures released by the WHO indicate that 26,720 cases have been reported and 11,079 people have died from Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Sierra Leone and the United States, however officials have warned that the full scale of the Ebola outbreak may have been underreported. The latest outbreak, which was officially confirmed in March 2014, has killed five times more people than all the other known outbreaks combined.