Ebola Outbreak In Liberia Is Over: World Health Organization
Effects of epidemic, however, will be felt for generations to come
The West African country of Liberia, which was ground zero for worst Ebola outbreak in recorded history, was declared epidemic-free by the World Health Organization on Saturday.
The WHO, which is tasked by the United Nations with directing international responses to epidemics, made the announcement from the Liberian capital of Monrovia.
"WHO declares Liberia free of Ebola virus transmission," the organization announced in a statement that was read by Dr. Alex Ntale Gasasira, the WHO representative to Liberia. "Forty-two days have passed since the last laboratory-confirmed case was buried on 28 March 2015. The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over."
However, the organization warned, neither the country nor the region is in the clear: "While WHO is confident that Liberia has interrupted transmission, outbreaks persist in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, creating a high risk that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region’s exceptionally porous borders."
Furthermore, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf told the Associated Press that "The pain and grief will take a generation to heal." The destruction and loss suffered as a result of the outbreak is a "scar on the conscience of the world," she added.
The country's economy was decimated by the outbreak, which killed at least 11,000 people across the region and more than 4,700 Liberians.
The World Health Organization and international community—especially wealthy nations—were broadly criticized for their negligent response to the crisis.
In a press statement issued in late August, Brice de le Vingne, Doctors Without Borders director of operations, slammed western states for their isolationist policies towards the epidemic: "Self-protection is occupying the entire focus of states that have the expertise and resources to make a dramatic difference in the affected countries. They can do more, so why don’t they?"
At their announcement on Saturday, the WHO briefly nodded at the poor global response but fell short of a full-throated critique. "International support was slow to start, but abundant when it arrived," the organization said.