We're over 20 months into the Ebola epidemic, and while it has slowed over the last few months, new cases continue to emerge each week. Liberia, declared Ebola-free for over two months, suffered another death from the disease last month, spreading fears of a comeback in the country.
From the beginning, it was clear that a medical response alone was not going to stop Ebola. And while doctors were rightly lauded for their incredibly heroic work, community mobilizers like Mariam were in the background laboring in the hot zones, changing minds almost one Guinean at a time, all the while exposing themselves to potential infection and violence.
A recent "flare up" of Ebola showed the response system is better -- but not perfect. Vigilance is still needed. And in the long-term, building a resilient health system is crucial. Resilience is a word that is often used post-Ebola.
Above all, we must recognize the people who took the largest risks -- those who applied medical science, demonstrated safe health practices, and engaged in community outreach all while losing close relatives and friends to the disease.
Throughout July and August of 2014, Ebola tore through Lunsar. Within only a few weeks, eight members of the staff at Massebeneh died, including the hospital's chief surgeon, Dr. Manuel García Viejo. The hospital was closed on September 24. Margaret still grieves for those friends she lost, but she also speaks empathetically about the women in the community who had nowhere to go. With no medical intervention she knows hundreds must have died, not of Ebola, but of other complications common in rural village communities.
For most of us, only a handful of moments will etch themselves forever into our memories. For me, one came when I learned that Ebola had broken out in West Africa. It was December 2013 and I was watching the news. The ticker tape across the bottom of the screen confirmed an outbreak in Guinea. The news anchor didn't even mention it.
As the Sustainable Development Goals prepare to pick up where the Millennium Development Goals left off, what sort of changes can we anticipate in how the goals will be implemented by member states, civil society leaders, NGOs, and other organizations around the world
How will this new tool be used? How will it reach those in need? Rapid availability of the vaccine is key and as with all health technologies, access to and delivery of the drug will depend on the capacity of the very health systems that have been decimated by Ebola.
Despite new infections, Liberia is working toward rebuilding the health system and restoring confidence among communities to return to life as normal--all while keeping infection prevention practices in mind.
The public is right: The world is not prepared for the next epidemic. We're no better equipped to respond quickly to an outbreak than we were a year ago. But we can be - and at a fraction of what it would cost if we don't act urgently.
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While the fight against Ebola continues in Liberia and neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, one vital measure for epidemic preparedness has emerged: a robust community health system.
The Global Health Media Project has produced a cartoon video, The Story of Ebola. The video presents the Ebola virus in scientific, yet understandable terms for West African countries still facing the viral threat.
The resurgence of Ebola in Liberia is a sharp reminder that all efforts to fight the epidemic must remain high and that the international community should continue to be mobilized.
Today in New York the world is coming together to pledge resources for the recovery of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. And this is support they need urgently. But it will also be an occasion to sound the alarm bell that the emergency response to the epidemic must not wane now.
When Pardis Sabeti rollerblades to her lab at Harvard on a warm spring day, she may come up with a discovery that saves lives before she puts on her skates to go home that night. It's happened before and at the rate she's going, it's likely to happen again.