The End of an Epidemic

What does a country in recovery look like? In April 2016, on the heels of the worst Ebola outbreak in history, UNC researchers Aimee Wall and Jeff Austin traveled to Monrovia, Liberia, to meet with local public health officials. Their photos give us a glimpse of everyday protocol in a country that has been ravaged by a deadly virus. To read more about their work, check out this Endeavors article.

Photos courtesy of Jeff Austin and the Centers for Disease Control

During the height of the Ebola epidemic, movement between counties was curtailed. Upon leaving the capital of Monrovia to head to Gbarnga, Wall and Austin encountered this checkpoint at one of the county borders. A mini outbreak that occurred right before their first visit in 2016 started with a Liberian woman returning from Guinea, where a larger cluster of people had become infected.
A dinner outing in Monrovia. From left to right: Akshara Menon, JD/MPH, CDC, Public Health Law Program; Dr. Francis Kateh, Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Minister of Health (and former Anson County health director); Aimee Wall, JD/MPH, UNC School of Government; Jeff Austin, JD, UNC School of Government; Emily Rosenfeld, JD/MPH, CDC, Center for Global Health
Upon entering Liberia, and before entering the airport, visitors are greeted with a hand-washing station that includes bleach solution. Then, someone at the door takes their temperature. Many private businesses such as hotels and restaurants also had similar handwashing stations. Most of the government buildings Wall and Austin visited had comparable protocols during the April 2016 visit. When they returned to Liberia six months later, most of these preventive measures were gone.
Walking across a makeshift bridge was how Wall and Austin reached the home of Wall’s friend Mary Saylee, who lives on land outside of Monrovia. The neighborhood’s foundation is a reclaimed swamp, developed by digging and piling mud. As seen here, Ebola is not the only public health challenge Liberians face.
A neighborhood outside of Monrovia.
Emily Rosenfeld washes her hands during a visit to a county health department outside Monrovia.

Because trust in elected officials is extremely low, billboards throughout Monrovia address the issue of public corruption. During Wall and Austin’s April visit, the Justice Minister resigned under a cloud. Then, in September, a corruption controversy was brewing around the Speaker of the House, who was subsequently removed from office.

A Monrovian newspaper from January 2016 illustrates the continued concern about the potential spread of Ebola. A new outbreak coincided with Wall and Austin’s visit in April, which included significant coverage in local press. But when they returned in September, attentions had turned to the 2017 presidential election.

Credits:

Jeff Austin and the Centers for Disease Control

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