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Homeland Security

Liberia Watches Nervously as Ebola Spreads Near Border

by Chris Stein, Prince Collins June 23, 2015

Of the three West African countries hardest-hit by the Ebola outbreak, Liberia is the only one to be rid of the virus completely.

When World Health Organization made the announcement last month, Liberians greeted the news with prayer, song and celebration.

But the virus has yet to be beaten in neighboring Guinea or Sierra Leone, where health officials announced this week two people had come down with the disease in the capital, Freetown.

The virus's endurance has people in Liberia worried. The three hardest-hit countries are uniformly poor, and the borders between them are little more than a line that is regularly crossed by traders and townspeople.

Cross-border commerce

Amego Sekou Kamara lives in the town of Firestone, outside Liberia's capital, Monrovia, and he is worried cross-border commerce could bring the virus along with it.

"Most of our Liberians that do not have the means of going down to China and other places, they are using Guinea as a close venue to go and buy their goods to go and sell,' he said. 'So, definitely, we all have to be afraid."

Liberian health authorities say they are training people at the border and giving them thermometers to prevent the disease from making it across.

"We are still doing our cross-border surveillance exercises, still going on,' Tolbert Nyensuah, the head of Liberia's Ebola Incidence Management Team, said. 'Across the border we are training DIM officials providing thermometers."

But some think the government should do more. Arthur Blackie, who lives in Margibi County near the capital, said he thinks the border should be closed until Liberia's neighbors are free of the disease.

"The border is porous and people can be coming from different directions,' he said. 'You cannot monitor in the night — they slink in and go back, so I think government [should] close the border so that we on this side can be safe."

The virus has killed more than 11,000 people in the region since the Ebola outbreak began in late 2013.

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