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Liberia Says US Report Brings ‘Clarity’ to Fight against Ebola

Health workers places the body of a man, inside a plastic body bag as he is suspected of dying due to the Ebola virus as people, rear, look on in Monrovia, Liberia, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. (AP Photo/Abbas Dulleh)

The Liberian government has welcomed Tuesday’s release of a statistical model on West Africa’s Ebola cases by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which predicts a huge jump in the number of cases to as many as 1.4 million by January unless the epidemic is brought under control.

The CDC said the disease can be controlled by isolating large numbers of those infected.

Liberia’s Information Minister, Lewis Brown, said it will help his government and its partners make the case for more urgent international support.

“The government welcomes the predictive tool released by the Centers for Disease Control as a useful step in, first of all, helping us [in] understanding where we are and giving us a sort of means by which we can predict and calculate the progress we are making. Not only will this help us reinforce our understanding about the fight, it will also enable us to make a case to the world for much needed international support and assistance,” he said.

The CDC report said people who are in Ebola treatment centers or who are kept in their own areas away from others infect less than one person. But, it adds that people who are not separated from others, while they are sick, risk infecting about two other persons.

Brown said the government has taken steps since August to protect against the worst-case predicted outcomes of the CDC report.

“One is to ensure that we have enough treatment facilities, enough beds to extract individuals from their homes and their communities. The second is to engage in increased awareness programs and community sensitization by which communities take ownership,” he said.

Brown said the government has added beds in Ebola treatment units at two local hospitals since August to accommodate the sick.

“We know that that is not enough. That is why we welcome the increased level of support and assistance from the government of the United States in which they will assist us in working and ensuring engineering work is completed for the opening of 17 additional treatment facilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, President Sirleaf Tuesday said she has received the report of the Special Board of Inquiry set up to investigate the August 20 shooting of four people in the West Point neighborhood. One teenage boy was killed and three others were wounded.

Brown said Sirleaf authorized the army chief of staff to “take immediate action against those who would be found culpable.”

“Certainly, the entire military cannot be responsible for what took place. Individuals are alleged to have added outside of their specific orders, and so the president is saying that, if individuals acted outside their specific orders, then those individuals are culpable and must be made to answer fully,” he said.

Brown said the president made clear that the military must remain accountable to the citizens. He said she has also asked the Liberian Independent Human Rights Commission to conduct its own investigation.

Sirleaf has also decided not to attend this year’s 69th UN General Assembly session in New York. Brown said the Liberian delegation will be led by Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan.

Asked why the foreign minister is leading the delegation and not the Vice President, Brown said, “that possibility has not been fully ruled out, but the foreign minister, who is head of the delegation as we speak, is there and more than likely will represent the government."