The country that was hardest-hit by the worst outbreak of Ebola ever recorded is officially free of the virus. The World Health Organization officially declared the West African nation of Liberia hasn’t reported a new case of Ebola since the last victim was buried 42 days ago, which represents twice the incubation period. “The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia is over,” the WHO said in a statement, calling it “a monumental achievement” for a country that at one point was reporting as many as 400 new cases every week.
More than 4,700 people died in Liberia, almost half the 10,600 people who are thought to have died from the Ebola epidemic that first broke out in Guinea in December 2013. The country is planning to celebrate on Monday, but the WHO urged caution, noting that Ebola is still present in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone, “creating a high risk that infected people may cross into Liberia over the region’s exceptionally porous borders.”
Oxfam praised the country for instituting the right policies to combat the spread of Ebola. “Shifting the approach from top down to bottom up was vital in getting Liberia to zero cases,” said Oxfam’s Country Director in Liberia Mamudu Salifu. “The government recognized early on that working with ordinary people, rather than forcing health measures on them, would ease fears and mistrust around Ebola. Ensuring that communities play a leading role has been an essential factor in stopping the spread.”
Although Liberian Presiden Ellen Johnson Sirleaf praised the international community’s role in stopping the spread of the disease, she also criticized how slowly the West initially reacted to the crisis, reports the Associated Press. “This Ebola outbreak is a scar on the conscience of the world. For some the pain and grief will take a generation to heal,” she said. “Therefore, let today’s announcement be a call to arms that we will build a better world for those Ebola could not reach … It is the least the memories of our dearly departed deserve.”