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Hope but no respite from Ebola

On Thursday, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf visited Washington, DC to thank the American people for their unwavering support in Liberia’s fight against Ebola. I can say with the utmost certainty that the Liberian people stand behind her in her demonstration of gratitude. Without the United States, Ebola’s impact on our region and the world could have been even more devastating.

While Liberia’s schools may be open, curfews ended, borders crossed, spirits lifted, and markets back to their normal hubbub, we are not out of the woods. Liberia had only one case last week, but Guinea reported 35 new cases and Sierra Leone confirmed 63. We cannot let down our guard. We cannot celebrate before this fight is over.  

{mosads}President Sirleaf asked America to continue its support so that Liberia can rebuild its healthcare systems and better prevent another global crisis. Our obligation as Liberians is to use those funds transparently and openly so that – for the first time – all Liberians can access the quality health care they deserve and so desperately need.  

In our country of four million people, most Americans would be stunned to know that we have approximately 50 doctors serving the entire population. That’s more than 70,000 patients per doctor, compared to the United States’ patient/doctor ratio of 408. Most Liberians have no concept of the kind of care that is considered routine in the United States. So in the name of the 4,037 Liberians who died of Ebola, their legacy, with the help of the American people, should be a working healthcare system that is built to last beyond today’s immediate crisis. 

The first step will be attracting and training new doctors, nurses and healthcare workers; building capacity for those that already selflessly serve in the most remote Liberian regions; and building the infrastructure these health professionals need to provide services. Without these firm systems in place, all of our efforts to eradicate Ebola could be for naught, and Liberia’s promise will never be realized. 

Sirleaf rightly capitalized on this moment to galvanize hope among Liberians and reenergize Liberian-U.S. relations. We have the opportunity to build a healthcare system from the ground up and see the fruits of our labor reverberate in Liberia’s economy, the region, and the world.   

This could be an opportunity to start a fresh chapter in Liberia and to become a source of strength and order in the region. Instead of just putting out fires, we must dedicate ourselves to building an infrastructure that will give Liberia the 21st century tools it needs to protect its citizens and its neighbors. Thank you again to the American people as we rebuild our country. We look forward to a continued partnership for success. 

Williams is founder and president of the New Liberia Foundation, an American 501(c)4 dedicated to improving Liberian lives.


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