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Ebola Is Down, But Not Out, In Liberia


Fewer people are contracting Ebola in Liberia these days, but like a fast-moving brush fire, Ebola is hard to extinguish. And then, there's the damage it leaves behind. In one community, on the outskirts of the capital Monrovia, it took a village to save a family of kids orphaned by the virus. In that village today, Liberia's president launched a new strategy to get communities more involved in eradicating the disease. The village is called New Georgia Signboard, and NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us from there. And Ofeibea, first of all, tell us more about this new anti-Ebola campaign that was announced there.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Ebola Must Go - it's called. And President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has just left New Georgia Signboard. What she wants to do is shift the focus to the communities, and she has chosen this community because she said it is a model for other communities in Liberia. It helped a family of orphans whose mother had died, and people didn't want to go anywhere near them. But it was their pastor and the wife of the pastor who said they will die if we don't get them to an Ebola treatment unit. So without touching - because they say they observe all the health protocols - they got them in a taxi, and they finally got them into a treatment unit. So that's why the president is using this community as an example - because it helped the young people - aged 21 to 2.

SIEGEL: And the story of what happened in New Georgia Signboard has been highly publicized in Liberia. People have heard this story.

QUIST-ARCTON: People are now learning about this community because it has been chosen by the president and the authorities as a model for Liberia. The president says, you've got to shift the focus, now that the numbers of new Ebola case's our dwindling, to the communities. They must take more responsibility. They must report when people are ill. They mustn't hide people because if you hide them, they will die, and they will infect others. So she's saying Ebola Must Go is the new campaign, but you are the ones who are going to help kick Ebola out of Liberia.

SIEGEL: And are the children who were rescued - the orphans in this case - have they, in fact, been welcomed by their neighbors?

QUIST-ARCTON: Yes and no - by their church where their mother was a chorister - definitely. The pastor and his wife have taken them in, and the community has paid rent for a year for them to be able to live here. But it didn't happen immediately. One landlord said no. We don't want Ebola survivors. A second one - the same thing happened. So they have to persuade people and educate them and teach them that stigmatizing and ostracizing survivors is not going to help. They are not infectious. We must take them back in. We must love them, and we must help them. And that is the message that they're trying to get across here.

SIEGEL: Do health authorities there in Liberia - do they agree that the challenge is community engagement or do they see other problems facing them to eradicate Ebola?

QUIST-ARCTON: Not just the authorities in Liberia but the international health authorities say that now that the numbers are dwindling - complacency - that people must not think that this is the new normal. They have got to continue battling Ebola. They've got to continue making sure that everything in the education leaflets, on the radio and so on is still followed because there are only 10 to 12 cases a day - new cases, but they can still infect others.

SIEGEL: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in New Georgia's Signboard outside Monrovia, Liberia. Ofeibia, thanks.

QUIST-ARCTON: Thank you, Robert. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.
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