Liberia's Future in the Face of Ebola

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 20, 2014
Contact: Ilene Greenfield
Director of Media Relations
973-278-5400, ext. 1-5122
igl@BerkeleyCollege.edu
 

LIBERIA’S FUTURE IN THE FACE OF EBOLA

Berkeley College alumnus, humanitarian and native of Liberia discusses implications of the epidemic in West Africa at event
sponsored by the Berkeley College Center for Global Studies

 

Tamba D. Aghailas, a native of Liberia who escaped 15 years of civil war there, was the guest speaker at this year’s inaugural presentation sponsored by the Berkeley College Center for Global Studies. Mr. Aguailas, a representative for the aid organization BRAC Liberia, described civil war as one of the root causes of the current healthcare challenge facing West Africa as it battles the Ebola epidemic.  Setting the backdrop for the outbreak, he also noted the lack of a reliable infrastructure to deliver proper healthcare and responsive emergency services, as well as trust between the public and the government, as conditions which prevented proper containment of the disease. 

Background in West Africa pre Outbreak

According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, GA, as fruit bats that carried the disease were ingested by larger mammals, the disease entered the food chain and eventually infected the human population near the Ebola River in Sudan (now South Sudan) and Zaire (now Republic of Congo).  As is common in African countries, the infected individual sought help from a traditional healer across the border. This, of course, spread the disease from Guinea into neighboring countries.  Distrust of the government’s ability to intervene successfully delayed those afflicted in getting the proper treatment.  By the time they did, hospitals and medical facilities could not handle the number of patients who needed treatment, so many went home.  Misinformation about treatment flourished.  Schools that provided one avenue of possible effective communication about proper precautions to use among infected people were closed due to the state of emergency the disease caused.

Impact on Global Community

The impact on the global community is widespread, mostly because of fear and misinformation about transfer of the virus.  According to Mr. Aghailas, the economic loss may exceed $3 billion.  Some countries have made financial commitments to help; more is needed.  International and almost all regional airlines cancelled flights.  This has hindered operations by large international businesses and has a negative impact locally in terms of tax revenues.  Also, health practitioners and supplies could not be on the ground in a timely fashion.

“What is left is fear and stigma,” said Mr. Aghailas.  “It is difficult for those who have survived to reintegrate into the community.”

How do we get out of this?

Liberia has had close ties to the United States since becoming independent in 1847 and – it is the homeland for former freed slaves in the United States. Aid now has come from the United States Army and other countries.  But more is required beyond the aid addressing the Ebola outbreak. According to Mr. Aghailas, the following initiatives are needed:

  • Look at the fundamental institutions that broke down.  Primary care must be rebuilt so citizens do not have go elsewhere, and African governments must be trusted to disperse the resources.  Washing hands with chlorine and soap does help, but the population must walk miles and miles to get water.
  • The United Nations system was unprepared.  It did not know what to do and the longer it took, the worse it became.  Now the United Nations will have an emergency fund that will address this type of emergency.
  • Establish infrastructure for emergency communications in Africa.
  • Decentralize efforts in Liberia through its political subdivisions; those on the ground need better training, equipment and transportation, whatever it takes.
  • Detect Ebola early, when the victim has a better chance of survival, even though there is not yet a known cure.
  • Increase awareness with the right information about the Ebola disease – it is contracted through fluids of infected persons. In Monrovia the outbreak has slowed, but there are hot spots.  All three countries must be contained because of the flow of citizens across borders.  There must be two consecutive time frames of 21 days each before the countries can be free of the disease.  You cannot get the disease again once you have had it.
  • Donate to the most active non-government organizations on the ground: American Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders also known as Medecins sans Frontieres, International Rescue Committee, Samaritan’s Purse, and BRAC-Liberia (part of a consortium) and www.EbolaSurvivalFund.org.
  • For more information search online: #CrushEbolaNow.

 

About the Speaker:

Tamba D. Aghailas has dedicated his career to advocacy for the refugees and disenfranchised citizens of Africa. A native of Liberia, he describes his country as hospitable and resilient despite its history of civil unrest. Mr. Aghailas is a survivor of the Liberian civil war that lasted for 15 years, moving intermittently from Liberia to Sierra Leone, the Ivory Coast and Guinea during outbreaks of fighting. He currently lives in New York City and serves as Country Head, Human Resources and Program Operations, for BRAC Liberia, a development organization dedicated to alleviating poverty by empowering the poor and helping them to bring about positive change. Mr. Aghailas previously held positions with the International Rescue Committee and The Voice of Liberia, an organization he founded to promote the socioeconomic rights of the women and children of Liberia. He is a Berkeley College alumnus. To view a full profile, click here.                                                                                                                   

About the Center for Global Studies:

The Berkeley College Center for Global Studies is dedicated to starting discussions and sharing information about issues affecting the global community. The Center collaborates with faculty and staff to encourage international learning and develops avenues for students to become global citizens.

About Berkeley College:

A leader in providing career-focused education since 1931, Berkeley College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls approximately 8,000 students – including more than 900 international students – in its Baccalaureate and Associate degree and Certificate programs. The College has three New York locations – Midtown Manhattan, Brooklyn and White Plains. In New Jersey there are six locations – Woodland Park, Paramus, Woodbridge, Newark, Clifton and Dover. Berkeley College Online® serves a global population. Programs are offered in more than 20 career fields in the Larry L. Luing School of Business, the School of Professional Studies, the School of Health Studies, and the School of Liberal Arts. The website address is www.BerkeleyCollege.edu.

Tamba Aghailas presents at the Berkley College Center for Global Studies

Photo Caption: Dorothy Minkus-McKenna, DPS, Director, Berkeley College Center for Global Studies, and Tamba D. Aghailas listen to a question when he recently discussed the Ebola epidemic in West Africa at Berkeley College in Midtown Manhattan.

To view a high-resolution image of the photo above, go to: http://berkeleycollege.edu/press_release_images/NYC_TambaAghailas2.jpg

 

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