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Sierra Leone President Vows Ebola Eradication

FILE - Man suffering from the Ebola virus lies on the floor outside a house in Port Loko Community, on the outskirts of Freetown, in Sierra Leone.

The president of Sierra Leone has urged his people and the world not to become complacent about the Ebola virus, saying this is a battle "we cannot lose."

Sierra Leone’s President Earnest Bai Koroma is in New York this week to participate in an international Ebola recovery conference at the United Nations. His country, Guinea and Liberia are the epicenter of the health crisis that began last year, infecting more than 27,000 people in the three West African countries and killing more than 11,000.

Liberia on Thursday announced two new cases of the disease, and Sierra Leone said it will extend a curfew in Ebola-affected areas.

President Koroma warned that people are becoming complacent as the cases dwindle to a handful. He told VOA in an interview that the international community must remain focused on getting Ebola cases to zero, because only then will it be beaten.

“But until Ebola is completely out, we will not stop, we must continue this fight. We will encourage them to stay focused. It has been difficult for all of us. But that is where we find ourselves, and this is a battle we must not lose,” he said.

President Koroma said Ebola has reversed the substantial gains his country has made since the end of its civil war in 2002. Economic growth has stopped, the health sector must be rebuilt, schools need to reopen, people need jobs and investment needs to resume. He said he is asking for close to $1 billion at the U.N. conference for his country’s recovery.

“Ebola has not isolated us as a region or as nations. We still have great potentials, we are still prepared to do business and are preparing to do business… We still want to get to where we were before Ebola struck,” he said.

“It is a terrible situation to be in,” Koroma added, especially when the country is on a positive path. But with international support, he said, Sierra Leone can get to zero cases and stay there and begin the road to national recovery.