Sierra Leone is officially declared Ebola-free by the WHO.
On November 7, 2015 Sierra Leone was declared Ebola free by the World Health Organization. After the tireless dedication of health workers, community and government leaders, and many donors, Sierra Leone went 42 days without any new cases. Events took place across the country to celebrate the milestone and honor the lives lost over the last 20 months.
The government of Sierra Leone held a national ceremony in which the WHO country representative to Sierra Leone, Dr. Anders Nordström, officially declared an end to the Ebola outbreak. It was extremely moving to see the plight of the thousands of Ebola survivors highlighted throughout the ceremony. This included a statement from one of the first Ebola patients successfully treated in Sierra Leone, but who also lost 18 family members to the disease. Joining the Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma on stage was the last Sierra Leonean to be cured of Ebola, as well as a ten-year-old Ebola survivor who wrote and sang a powerful song entitled “I Am a Survivor” that demonstrated the resolve of the country to recover from the tragic outbreak.
This celebration almost did not take place. Just two days before the declaration, the country sprang into action to mobilize a rapid response after receiving news of a potential new case of Ebola. It was quickly determined that it was a false alarm.
This incident demonstrated Sierra Leone’s ability to detect and respond to health threats has significantly increased since the Ebola outbreak spread to the country in early 2014. A newly constructed National EOC, supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and funded by the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, was able to quickly plan and coordinate the response to the suspected threat.
There have been a number of lessons learned from the West Africa Ebola outbreak, and as this Ebola outbreak fades in West Africa, we must remain committed to applying these lessons to continue to prepare ourselves for the next outbreak, wherever it takes place. At the Paul G. Allen Ebola Program, our newest series of grants addresses these lessons learned with innovative solutions to bolster prevention and preparedness efforts, as well as the continued response and recovery efforts in West Africa.
Following last week’s declaration, and the good news that Guinea has reported a week without any new confirmed cases, West Africa is much closer to stamping out Ebola by the end of 2015. We look forward to setting the clock for the final countdown to getting to, and staying at zero.