Liberia Hosts Infectious Disease Prevention Conference With African Military Leaders

UNIFICATION CITY, Margibi – Military medical leaders from 21 nations across Africa are currently meeting in Liberia for the sixth conference hosted by the African Partner Outbreak Response Alliance.

The APORA conference kicked off on Monday and aims to provide opportunities for militaries of partnering nations to discuss strategies and ways forward in preparing for future outbreaks of infectious disease. It will run until Friday, November 16.

Speaking to reporters at the Farmington Hotel briefly after the official opening of the conference, U.S. Ambassador Christine Elder said she was excited that Liberia could host the conference.

“This is something we’ve learned the hard way here in Liberia by working together so closely, and this is why we all then come together across the continent to share,” she said.

APORA was organized by the United States Africa Command, also known as AFRICOM. The support is also part of AFRICOM’s effort to build the medical capacity of partner nations’ militaries in Africa following the Ebola outbreak between 2014 and 2016 that killed approximately 11,000 people.

Elder noted that while Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone suffered the outbreak of the Ebola virus, other countries face different threats and infectious diseases.

United States Ambassador to Liberia, Christine Elder. Photo: Gbatemah Senah

She said if the 21 countries can learn to coordinate with logistics, deployment, and sharing of responsibilities and expertise, countries would be able to get ahead of outbreaks and prevent them from occurring in the future, rather than just mitigating their impacts.

“This kind of coordination’s particularly between medical experts on the civilian side and military experts is really what going to get those efficiencies that are going to save lives,” Elder emphasized.

Defense Minister Daniel Ziankahn praised the United States government for its support to the alliance and for supporting Liberia in hosting the conference.

Ziankahn said based on the experiences of the Ebola crisis, the conference puts the country ahead in handling future outbreaks.

“We want to be proactive and see how best we can work together in Africa and we can find some amicable solution to some of the problems that we will face,” he said.

The minister also praised U.S. AFRICOM for its continued partnership and support to Liberia.

AFRICOM’s deputy command surgeon, Col. Krysta Murphy, expressed excitement that the conference would add to progress made so far in forming a global outbreak response agenda.

“Disease does not narrow borders and doesn’t distinguish between those in uniforms and those that are not,” she explained.

Featured photo courtesy of Robert Clarke

Gbatemah Senah

Gbatemah is a graduate of the University of Liberia and a recipient of the Jonathan P. Hicks Scholarship for Mass Communications. In 2017, Senah won three Press Union of Liberia awards: Women's Rights Reporter of the Year, Legislative Reporter of the Year, and Land Rights Reporter of the Year. In 2018, he was also recognized as the Land Rights Reporter of the Year.

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