25 August 2014

Liberia: High-Level Delegation of the U.S. CDC Meet With President Sirleaf and Top Government Officials - Discuss the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and top officials of Government have met with a visiting delegation of the United States' Center for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC).

According to an Executive Mansion release, the U.S.-CDC delegation headed by its Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, included the Director of the CDC Center for Global Health, Dr. Tom Kenyen; Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), Jeremy Konyndyk; and the Special Assistant to the CDC Director, Kimberly Dills.

The Liberian leader was joined at the meeting by Vice President, Dr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai; House Speaker, Honorable J. Alex Tyler; President Pro-Tempore of the Senate, Gbezohngar Findley; Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia, His Honor Francis Korkpor; Foreign Minister, Mr. Augustine K. Ngafuan; Finance Minister, Mr. Amara Konneh; Justice Minister, Cllr. Christiana Tah; Health Ministry officials, several members of the Legislature, among others.

The meeting was held at the Foreign Ministry's C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium on Monday, August 25, 2014.

President Sirleaf welcomed Dr. Frieden and delegation to Liberia and informed them that Government notes the severity of the current Ebola virus disease which was reflected in the number of high ranking government officials present at the meeting from all three branches of the government.

She indicated that the disease was affecting the well-being of the people and has the potential to undermine all the progress the country had made if not contained quickly. "I know you have had time to talk with many of the actors involved in the fight to contain the spread of the virus and will meet many more. We encourage you to do so in order to get a clearer picture of the situation and thereby informing your action and intervention as an institution," President Sirleaf emphasized, adding that government was keen on listening to the CDC delegation as it partners with government to contain the spread of the virus.

Assistant Health Minister for Preventive Services, also coordinator of the National Task Force on Ebola, Mr. Tolbert Nyenswa, briefed the CDC delegation about the government's current structure and intervention level as the country seeks to halt the spread of the Ebola virus disease. He outlined the progress made, constraints and challenges that exist and what is required to contain the epidemic.

Mr. Nyenswah identified the strengthening of case management system that involves treatment of infected persons, testing processes and facilities, burial processes, contact tracing and surveillance, community mobilization and health promotion, improved incentives and attention for healthcare workers as interventions that will enhance the fight against the spread of the virus.

He stressed the need to create more treatment centers with greater capacity across the country, especially the counties that are hard hit and the provision of more logistics to respond to the sick as well as the collection of deceased persons as critical and urgent. He appealed for a strong psycho-social component in the fight due to stigma, psychological challenges of the affected persons as well as family and community members.

For his part, the Director of the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tom Frieden, agreed with the concerns and preposition made by Assistant Minister Nyenswah, stressing that effective surveillance is critical and enhancing the government and partners capacity to respond adequately to sick and burial calls is critical to the efficiency of the fight against the virus.

He praised the Government for a good effort thus far, but pointed out that the government response team needs all the support internally and externally if the spread must be contained. He also emphasized the expansion of treatment facilities as a bigger challenge that must be addressed with timeliness and urgency.

Dr. Frieden recommended that strengthened coordination with the case management system team is principal in tackling the spread of the virus and noted that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has much more presence in country than earlier.

He indicated further the immediate training for healthcare workers in collaboration with partners such as MSF for the management of treatment facilities is critical in the fight against the disease.

Dr. Kenyen indicated that the African continent through the African Union has been engaged to assist with medical personnel to help the effected countries but has to be assured about the safety and protection of these health workers.

He warned that the re-emergence of the disease in places where they have occurred before is eminent and urged the country to always watch out even after the containment of the current outbreak. He recommended the integration of the various interventions into an integrated case management system that is comprehensive and holistic.

For his part Dr. Adama Sirleaf, Co-founder and Chairman of the Board of the Health Education and Teaching Through Training (HEARTT Foundation), also a son of President Sirleaf, who is also in country along with the CDC Team made a special appeal to the international community to support efforts aimed at protecting healthcare workers across Liberia who must perform regular services beyond the Ebola epidemic.

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