In December 2013 a two year old boy died of a mysterious illness in the Guinean village of Meliandou. Back then, no one suspected that this boy would trigger the largest of any Ebola outbreak since the discovery of the virus in Central Africa in 1976. On March 25, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an outbreak in Guinea with 86 infected and 59 casualties. Two days later, the virus had reached Guinea’s capital Conakry. Shortly after, Liberia announced its first deaths. Sierra Leone soon followed. As of September 2015 the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) have counted a total of 28,287 people infected; 11,309 of whom have died.
While Liberia suffered most casualties, it also was the first country that has succeeded in defeating the virus. On September 3, 2015 Liberia was officially declared Ebola-free. And yet, the suffering for the Liberia people continues. The aftermath of this outbreak will affect them and burden their country for years to come.
When the Ebola virus emerged, Liberia was on a slow and bumpy road to recovery after two civil wars that had ravaged the country for over a decade. Ebola brought Liberia to it knees once again. The health care system collapsed, countless doctors and nurses died. Routine vaccinations were no longer administered, and infectious diseases such as measles began to spread.
Beyond the medical sector, the impact of Ebola is also devastating. Schools and universities remained closed for months. The economy contracted. Foreign firms and mining companies have drastically reduced their activities in Liberia. Quarantined farmers could no longer work their fields. The psychological effects are also devastating: the survivors are stigmatized, and there is anger with those, who did not help, because they were too afraid.
Liberians now say Ebola is worse than the war, because during times of war you knew your enemy and could go the other way. With Ebola, your loved ones turned into mortal enemies and there is no way to hide.