MONROVIA, LIBERIA/BRUSSELS—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomes the World Health Organization's declaration that Liberia is Ebola-free after 42 days with no recorded cases, while warning that the outbreak is not over, as new cases continue in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.
Cross-border surveillance must be improved to prevent Ebola from re-emerging in Liberia, MSF said.
"The Liberian government and the Liberian people have worked hard to achieve 42 days of zero Ebola cases, but that hard work could be undone in an instant," said Mariateresa Cacciapuoti, MSF head of mission in Liberia. "We can't take our foot off the gas until all three countries record 42 days with no cases."
Nearly 200 Liberian health workers died after contracting Ebola, and the epidemic decimated the country's already-fragile national health system.
"It's time for health needs to be addressed as a priority," Cacciapuoti said. "Liberians must feel confident they can go to hospital once again and have their health care needs looked after. The international community must support Liberia—and Guinea and Sierra Leone—in rebuilding a strong and affordable national health system with adequate human and material resources."
As described in the MSF report Pushed to the Limit and Beyond in March, the Ebola epidemic has exposed "the weakness of health systems in developing countries [and] the paralysis and sluggishness of international aid." The report highlighted the "global coalition of inaction" that dragged on for several months before the international community woke up to the threat of Ebola—despite repeated pleas from MSF for help.
"Quite simply, we were all too late,” said Henry Gray, head of MSF Ebola operations. “The world—including MSF—was slow to start the response from the beginning. That lesson has been learned, at the cost of thousands of lives, and we can only hope it will prevent the same thing happening again in the future."
MSF is continuing to address health needs in Liberia by running a pediatric inpatient clinic in Monrovia and by working with the Liberian Ministry of Health to carry out a measles vaccination campaign, which is currently underway across three districts in the capital.
With 10,564 cases of Ebola and 4,716 deaths according to the WHO, Liberia has been badly hit in the current outbreak. The peak of the outbreak in Liberia occurred between August and October 2014, when MSF opened what became the world's largest Ebola management center, ELWA 3, in Monrovia, with a total capacity of 400 beds. In Liberia, MSF treated 1,663 confirmed cases, and 910 survived. In West Africa, MSF has admitted a total of 9,470 people to its Ebola management centers and treated 5,170 confirmed Ebola patients, and 2,553 survived. Fourteen MSF staff also lost their lives to Ebola across West Africa.