By Bob Allen
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced Nov. 13 the end of national state of emergency, citing progress in the fight against Ebola.
Richard Wilson, a Mercer University professor forced to leave his temporary appointment as president of the Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary and return to the United States due to the Ebola outbreak in August, described the news as an answer to prayer.
“The Liberia Baptist Theological Seminary offers prayers of gratitude to God and to those whom God has been working to confront, slow down, and, finally eradicate the threat of Ebola,” Wilson said in a statement.
Sirleaf said in a national radio broadcast that she is lifting a state of emergency in effect since Aug. 6 “not because the fight against Ebola is over,” but because sufficient progress has been made to “sustain the fight against the virus until it is finally eradicated from our country.”
She ordered the opening of food and merchandise markets and directed school authorities to organize youth to clean up school facilities. She said a decision on when to reopen schools depends on progress in the fight against Ebola. A midnight curfew remains in effect, and the government retains the right to restrict movement.
The confirmed death toll from the virus is now 5,160 people, almost all of them from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Wilson said the Ebola dead include Liberian pastors who put care for the sick above personal safety. He said the seminary community mourns the loss of one of its own, Napoleon Braithwaite, pastor of the Peaceful Baptist Church and a member of the seminary’s board of trustees, who succumbed to Ebola Sept. 24.
Braithwaite served as a special assistant to Liberia’s chief medical officer, Dr. Bernice Dahn, who put herself on a 21-day quarantine after his death. The Ugandan-born doctor who treated Braithwaite also contracted Ebola and died Oct. 9.
A graduate of the Liberian Baptist Theological Seminary, Braithwaite became pastor of Peaceful Baptist Church in the early 1980s. In September a sick woman knocked on his door and asked him to call an ambulance, knowing he was one of the few people around having a phone. After he was told an ambulance would not come, he drove the woman in his car to the hospital. Several days later he began running a fever and was dead within a week. He was 55.
The Liberia seminary launched a Care for One Hundred campaign to raise funds for 100 people, including 30 children, living on campus without employment after the state of emergency forced the school to close.
Seven similar communities were discovered at schools and compounds with some relationship to the Liberia Baptist Missionary and Educational Convention. By the end of November, Wilson said, the seminary will have used funds to provide basic food for four compounds associated with Baptist schools in four counties in Liberia.
Convention officials set a fundraising goal of $35,000 for similar projects in 100 communities across Liberia.
Wilson said the fight is not over until the World Health Organization declares Liberia free of the Ebola virus.
“We rejoice that things are better than four months ago,” he said. “We acknowledge that the journey toward an Ebola-free Liberia is still unfinished. We plead for diligence and continued care and compassion at home and abroad.”