UN lauds Liberian progress in fighting Ebola

MONROVIA – The United Nations Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response on Wednesday lauded Liberian progress in fighting the deadly Ebola virus.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that Liberia has made significant progress in containing Ebola, outlining the need for ensuring zero presence of the virus in the country.

He said that progress in fighting the Ebola outbreak would not have been possible without cooperation between Liberia's health institutions and people.

On Wednesday, Ahmed visited Grand Cape Mount County, one of the most affected areas in northwestern Liberia. He also met with Liberian President Ellen Johnson and development partners.

"I certainly have a lot of optimism," Ahmed said."I think without doubt, Liberia has done a great progress and that owes a lot to the Liberian people," he added.

The UN official said that he was impressed by the leadership and interest of the Liberian President in combating the virus nationally.

Ahmed, who was on a three-day visit to Liberia, added that both Liberia's leadership and people had exhibited courage and commitment to continuously fight the Ebola virus.

-Blame-

John Sumo, the director of Public Health Promotion at the Health Ministry, blamed the rise of Ebola cases across Liberia on religious leaders in the country.

He said religious leaders who put their hands on churchgoers to bless them during prayers were responsible for the outbreak.

Sumo said pastors had continuously put their hands on people infected with the virus to pray for them, but blamed the latest resurgence in Ebola infections throughout Liberia on this practice.

He said pastors and their relatives contracted the virus as a result, passing the infection onto other people in the country's health system, which created a national health crisis at the end of the day.

Pastor Peter Kollie, meanwhile, encouraged his fellow priests to suspend this practice.

He, however, said that accusing pastors of contributing to the spread of the disease was "discouraging."

The death toll from the Ebola outbreak in three West African countries had risen to 8,153, while more than 20,000 cases have been reported there, the World Health Organization said in a statement on January 5.  

The UN health agency said that at least 20,656 people were infected by the deadly virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Sierra Leone had the highest number of cases of the three intense-transmission countries, with 9,772 patients reported to date.

Liberia's death toll of 3,471 was more than 2,915 recorded in Sierra Leone.

In Guinea, 1,767 deaths were reported out of 2,769 cases.

Copyright © 2015 Anadolu Agency