By Christa Davis

Ebola may be declared officially over in Liberia but thousands of people now face the challenge of having to rebuild their lives and communities.

The Ebola epidemic killed more than 11,300 people in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. New cases have dwindled virtually to zero, but the World Health Organization has warned of possible flare-ups.

It’s important that we never forget Ebola’s devastating impact and stay vigilant as communities fully recover from the effects of the crisis. Reflecting on the lessons learned from the Ebola response helps to ensure the development of more resilient and prepared health systems and how to better respond to future epidemics.

On March 17, PCI participated in InterAction’s congressional briefing on Capitol Hill to discuss learnings from the recent Ebola response and how they can be applied to current and future public health crises. The event highlighted the critical role NGOs played in defeating Ebola in West Africa.

Panelists included representatives from Global Communities, International Medical Corps and World Vision. Reid Wilson, Chief Political Correspondent for Morning Consult, moderated the discussion.

Based in rural Liberia from the onset of the outbreak through the peak of the response, Lindsay Harnish, PCI’s Ebola Development Management Consultant, shared her on-the-ground experience.

Harnish described how health-system strengthening and building local community capacity to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases has been a central focus of PCI’s work in Liberia.

Harnish shared, “In partnership with our key donors, USAID’s Food for Peace and Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, as well as our private donors, PCI is proud to have operated at the community-level in community mobilization and addressing issues of food security, as well as at the clinical level through the management of four Ebola treatment facilities and strengthening the capacity of rural clinics to safely treat outbreaks of infectious disease in the future.”

Harnish emphasized the importance of building trust with community members to communicate Ebola messaging, establishing a long-term commitment to strengthening local health systems beyond the epidemic, and also the flexibility of donors while determining an evolving response strategy.

In addition to the panel discussion, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) provided remarks on the importance of global health in the American foreign policy agenda and strengthening health systems across the world.

We cannot forget what Ebola has taught us. The recent outbreak of the Zika virus in Central America is a reminder that there is still much work to be done in strengthening the resilience of communities to respond to health crises.

PCI is leveraging the lessons learned from Ebola to mobilize a response to Zika, and continues to look for opportunities to build on this experience and improve the health outcomes for millions of people around the world. 

Christa Davis is PCI’s Development and Marketing Coordinator