Ebola has claimed many lives since it first appeared in 1976. The current outbreak in West Africa is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak ever since. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined and it has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia.
But, communities have been fighting hard to eradicate Ebola, with the latest victory announced by Liberia. This May, Liberia announced that it has reached zero Ebola cases with the last person known to have been infected, being safely buried on 28 March. A previously affected country is considered free of Ebola transmission if it records no further cases over a 42-day period, twice the maximum incubation period of the deadly virus.
At the height of the crisis in late August and early September, Liberia recorded more than 400 cases a week. Towards the end of the year, the country had clearly turned a corner, as communities increasingly took it upon themselves to battle the crisis, adopting safe behaviours – such as not touching bodies during funeral ceremonies and assuming responsibility for tracking down and reporting suspected cases.
Welcoming Liberia’s victory over Ebola, UNICEF commended the critical role played by everyday heroes to help get to zero, but has also cautioned that now the challenge is to remain at zero.
“The threat won’t be over until there are no more cases in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea,” said Sheldon Yett, UNICEF’s Representative in Liberia.
To that effect, UNICEF has launched a film about a girl in Sierra Leone who loses her parents to Ebola, but then resolves to fight for her community. The 5.47 minute film is a touching one, specially because it is told through the girl, letting a viewer feel the pain she has gone through. It throws light on the impact this deadly virus has had on thousands of African families, and the need to get together to prevent another outbreak.
UNICEF’s journey to get to zero in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Guinea cannot be complete without volunteers. Together with its partners, UNICEF has helped reach more than 400,000 households through door-to-door visits, and more than 1 million people through community discussions and meetings. The agency has also trained nearly 19,000 traditional and religious leaders and over 7,000 frontline mobilisers to support community engagement in Liberia.
Follow the hashtag #GetToZero to catch all the updates in the fight against Ebola.
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) May 22, 2015
— UN Women (@UN_Women) May 18, 2015
— UNICEF (@UNICEF) May 17, 2015