Exclusive: Liberian president dismisses grim Ebola forecast
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In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Wednesday blasted the US health agency and the World Health Organization (WHO) for their latest estimates on the expected number of new Ebola cases.
The agency has warned that the number of Ebola cases in Liberia and Sierra Leone could explode to a staggering 1.4 million in January unless efforts are ramped up.
“Absolutely not!” Sirleaf told FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman of the figures, adding that “even the WHO‘s initial projections that some 20,000 would likely die in the affected countries by January, even that is not going to happen.”
The WHO warned last week that there is a possibility that west Africa could see tens of thousands of new Ebola cases in the coming months.
“I am waiting for the next projections and I hope they will admit that they’ve just been simply wrong, that all of our countries are getting this thing under control,” she said, referring also to Guinea which is among the nations in West Africa that have been the hardest hit by the deadly virus.
Ebola has so far infected 7, 178 people and killed more than 3,300, roughly half of whom have been in Liberia.
The WHO, which released the new figures on Wednesday, said that the total number of new cases had fallen for the second week in a row, but warned they were likely to be under-reported.
‘On the road to solving this’
In the interview, Sirleaf said that the outbreak is actually showing signs of stabilising.
“We are beginning to see a stabilisation… even in Monrovia which has been hit the hardest,” she said of Liberia’s capital, which is home to more than a third of the country’s population.
Sirleaf said there has been a marked slow-down in the number of people reporting to treatment centres, noting that this is a telling sign “that we are finally on the road to solving this”.
The outbreak, which started about six months ago, has overwhelmed the health systems in the affected African countries and left aid groups scrambling for resources.
The US, the EU and other nations have sent money, supplies and personnel to try to stop the virus from spreading further.
Sirleaf hailed the international response, even though it took a while before it got off the ground, she said.
“(Ebola) has never been part of our health concern. It took us a while to know it and it took the international community a while to recognise what it was,” she said.
“Initially, nobody thought about Ebola” when the first cases appeared, she said.