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Liberia’s West Point: Life After Ebola Quarantine

People hand out foodstuff donated by the U.S at the West Point area that has been hard hit by the Ebola virus in Monrovia, Liberia, Aug. 26, 2014.

Residents of Liberia’s West Point neighborhood are jubilant now that the government has lifted a10 day-old quarantine of the densely populated borough of the capital, Monrovia.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the quarantine was necessary to control the spread of the virus, which the World Health Organization says has killed more than 1,500 people in four West African countries.

Frustration with the quarantine led to protest and, in one confrontation, police opened fire and used tear gas on the residents.

At least four residents were wounded and one of them, a 16 year-old boy, died.

James Weah is a university student and community leader in West Point and Jatu Harris is a fish marketer and also a resident of West Point.

“The people in West Point, the majority, are happy for the fact that they just got out of a dungeon of hardship and the dungeon of being dehumanized. So, they are happy,” Weah said.

Weah said the quarantine made the residents of West Point feel as if they were in a high security prison as they were cut off from their relatives on the outside.

“It was far more difficult for the people of West Point. There was no program put in place to cater to the needs of the people. Most of our people went to bed on wrinkled bellies. Our people were strangled; they could not move freely,” Weah said.

Harris, also a resident of West Point, pointed out that there were no reported cases of Ebola during the quarantine.

“Even though Ebola is real, no one died from Ebola in West Point since the quarantine. We tell God, ‘thank you’ for that. Everybody is healthy. If you see me, you will not believe that I was behind the quarantine. I am very huge,” Harris said.

Weah said the people of West Point feel the quarantine has stigmatized their township as an Ebola-infected region. He said the government should give a report declaring west point Ebola-free.

“We have been called all sorts of names. People point fingers at us labeling us to be Ebola patients. We want the government to tell the public that the people from West Point are indeed Ebola-free,” Weah said.

Sirleaf has ordered Defense Minister Brownie Samukai to set up a board of inquiry to determine the facts and circumstances leading to the rioting and shooting and to report back to her in 10 days.