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July 30, 2014

Liberia Diaspora Mobilizing for Ebola Relief

by James Butty

Liberia’s Ambassador to the United States said Liberians in the Diaspora are mobilizing support to help bring relief following the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus.  

Jeremiah Sulunteh said Liberians are being encouraged to make either monetary or medical supply donations.

The number of Ebola cases in Liberia has risen to at least 249, with 129 deaths.  President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Sunday closed most of the country’s land borders. 

Sulunteh said Liberians in the United States have been expressing their concern about the Ebola epidemic.

“Currently, Liberians living in the US have been calling me throughout the weekend to see how they can support to save other lives from destruction in Liberia.  So, the campaign right now is how we can set up the mechanism in place to galvanize the kind of help Liberia needs,” he said.

Sulunteh said the Minnesota-based Global Health Ministries will be shipping the first container of medical supplies and equipment to Liberia as early as Saturday (Aug 2).

“We are encouraging all Liberians and friends of Liberia and all well-wishers to see how they can be of help in collecting materials for the Ebola fight,” Sulunteh said.

He said the embassy is in the process of setting up an Ebola bank account for those who might want to make monetary contributions.

“Currently, the Finance Department from the Embassy is working with the bank to finalize the account. Hopefully, that account will be set up with specific guidelines, accountability and transparency to make sure that all monies collected for the Ebola virus is used for that purpose,” Sulunteh said.

The ambassador said he has designated himself “chairman” of the embassy’s Ebola Response Team to ensure that all money collected is used for the purpose it was intended.

Even though the Liberian government has declared a national health emergency, local media reports say the government does not appear to be prepared to deal with the rising number of deaths associated with the disease.

One report said dead bodies can be seen lying around the capital, Monrovia, with no effort by the Ministry of Health to remove them. 

Sulunteh said Sirleaf is still likely to attend next week’s US-Africa summit in Washington when President Barack Obama will host about 50 African heads of state and government.

“As far as we are aware, the president is making all preparations to come. Her delegation is having final meetings and putting all the plans together. Some of the cabinet ministers who are coming along are all in high gear to come but, at same time, attending to this national emergency issue,” Sulunteh said.

Butty interview with Amb Sulunteh