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Now is not the time to declare victory over Ebola

Flickr-UNMEER/Simon Ruf

For the first time since June 2014, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea collectively reported less than 100 weekly cases of Ebola. Thanks to the wholehearted and brave work of international organizations, local leaders, and Ebola survivors, the immediate threat of the virus is receding. We can’t overlook the significance of this news and the scale of this progress in battling back against an uncompromising and vicious disease. 

However, now is not the time to declare “Mission Accomplished” or to turn our collective attention away from West Africa. 

Just a little off the mark. |  Flickr:  Alun Salt

Just last week, the World Health Organization adopted a positive and hopeful tone when updating the public on their Ebola response and relief mission. But the UN Health agency still recognized that Ebola remains a prescient threat.

“This is like being in bed with two cobras, and one of them is dead. You still have an incredibly dangerous situation” - Bruce Aylward, WHO Special Representative on Ebola

The virus may be in retreat, but its effects and threat are prevalent and demanding- mandating our compassion and action. To effectively end Ebola and help the region recover, our response as global citizens must be two-pronged.

1.Ending Ebola completely, and freeing Sierra Leoneans, Guineans, and Liberians from the grip of this disease.

“To achieve this goal as quickly as possible, efforts have moved from rapidly building infrastructure to ensuring that capacity for case finding, case management, safe burials, and community engagement is used as effectively as possible.” - World Health Organization

NGO pass to access quarantined areas in Sierra Leone. | Wikipedia Commons

As long as new cases of Ebola persist, the threat of Ebola remains “incredibly dangerous.” However, in bringing weekly case rates down to record lows, the international response to this global health epidemic has provided us with lessons on how to reach complete eradication.

Continued support of international organizations and community leaders, who bravely spread crucial public health information, track and monitor infection cases, and provide direct medical care, can and will end this outbreak. 

There are a multitude of incredible organizations (local and international) leading this charge, and it is contingent upon us to further their work and advance their admirable goals.

Funding gaps still remain, and the message from leaders in the global health community is crystal clear:

“The outbreak is not yet under control,” and “the job is absolutely not finished”   
-David Nabarro, the United Nations’ special Ebola representative

2. Remain engaged and informed around response and recovery, fully aware and supportive of the heroic work being done to ameliorate Ebola’s harrowing impact.

Amidst all the promising news of falling case rates and strategic shifts from containing Ebola to ending Ebola, there is bad news that we would be foolish to overlook: the human, social, community, and economic damage caused by Ebola has been disastrous.

Schools have shuttered, business have halted operations, farms have been deserted, and children, in distressing numbers, have lost their families. 

Simply put, we can not overlook or turn a blind eye to the effect and widespread impact of Ebola.

We are rapidly approaching the next phase of the Ebola Response: recovery. It’s important to keep focused on the important work the international community and local leaders will need to take on to rebound from the outbreak.

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said it best: 

“Mitigating the consequences of Ebola will demand a coordinated global response comparable to what is being provided to end the outbreak.”

UN Secretary General Ban ki-Moon arrives at the National Ebola Response Center. | Flickr: 

As global citizens, our own role and significance in contributing to this “coordinated global response” cannot be undervalued. We must build back better.