16 Feb 2015
Helen Clark sounds note of optimism – Liberia will recover
Monrovia, Liberia – Cautioning that the Ebola crisis will not be over until there are zero cases, UNDP Administrator Helen Clark commended the Liberian Government and people for their ongoing efforts to contain the Ebola outbreak which has resulted in a sharp decline in the number of cases in the country.
Speaking at a press conference with Liberian Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan, Helen Clark said the Government and Liberian communities, working together with support from international partners, had shown “incredible courage” in tackling the Ebola crisis.
On the day when schools in Liberia, shuttered for more than six months to help prevent transmission, were finally re-opened, she said Liberia was emerging from a “very traumatic time”. There was now, she said, reason for hope.
“It is clear that no one will be happy until there are zero cases across all three epicenter countries”, Helen Clark told reporters. “But the important message now is that international solidarity with Liberia should not end at the end of the emergency phase. It must continue in support of recovery from this terrible crisis.”
Tasked by UN Secretary-General to the lead the UN system’s recovery efforts, UNDP is committed to working with Liberia as it follows its path to recovery in a way that is consistent with the Government and people’s own longer term development aspirations.
Helen Clark noted how important community empowerment and engagement had been in dealing with the outbreak. “I was inspired during my visit by the volunteers I met who had worked in their communities as active Ebola case finders. I hope that this strong community spirit and engagement can be built on in Liberia’s development journey.”
In addition to meetings with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, ministers, community leaders and members, and UN and international partners in the country, highlights of Helen Clark’s visit included:
Meeting the “Pink Panthers” motorcycle club, a group of women who offer motorbike taxi services. While many Liberians rely on motorbike taxis to get around town, few women in Monrovia earn their living as motorbike taxi operators. UNDP and the Angie Brooks Foundation have been working with the women riders to find ways to make their jobs safer, including in the context of Ebola. Helen Clark was invited to be an honorary member of the Pink Panthers, and was presented with her own pink jacket.
A tour of New Kru Town, a neighborhood in which Ebola caused many deaths, where Helen Clark met with some of UNDP’s Active Case Finders. She heard their stories and discussed their ideas for the future.
Helen Clark met with Josephine Dolley, an Ebola survivor who lost 29 members of her family including her husband and three children. Josephine has adopted six children whom she met whilst in an Ebola Emergency Treatment Unit, all of them Ebola survivors who lost their parents and siblings. Helen Clark expressed her admiration for Josephine’s courage after experiencing such personal tragedy.
She attended the signing of a project document to kickstart a UNDP cash transfer program, which will be rolled out in Bong County in the coming weeks. Before the signing, which took place in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, where UNDP has supported the county administration with essential equipment to help them respond to Ebola, Helen Clark was greeted with a traditional gowning ceremony, dancing, and drumming.
Concluding the press conference, Helen Clark said an upcoming meeting in Brussels would be aimed at maintaining international solidarity around achieving zero Ebola cases and considering the support needed to help Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone recover from the crisis.
Helen Clark’s mission is to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the three countries worst affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The next and final leg will see her conducting a two-day visit to Sierra Leone, where she arrives late on 16 February.
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