Liberia leader hails Obama's 'extraordinary' Ebola efforts28 february 2015, 12:47
Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Friday praised President Barack Obama's "extraordinary" leadership in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, AFP reports.
With Liberia now in recovery from the worst outbreak ever of the deadly virus, the United States ended its military mission in the region Thursday.
"You gave the clarion call to the global community to see the threat this disease represented," Sirleaf told Obama in the Oval Office at the White House.
"We want to really recognize the extraordinary leadership that you performed."
She also thanked the US Congress, where Obama's fellow Democrats and Republican foes alike backed efforts that led to $2.5 billion in aid and the deployment of 2,800 troops.
The US military mission mainly helped build treatment centers, trained personnel and provided logistical support to international aid agencies.
The Pentagon says around 100 US troops are to remain in the region to strengthen "disease preparedness and surveillance capacity" of local governments.
There are now only between one and three cases of new infections each week, and Sirleaf hopes to see the end of the epidemic in April.
Obama congratulated Liberia in meeting an "extraordinarily difficult challenge," saying he was "very proud" of US participation in the efforts.
Looking ahead, he said efforts must now focus on finding "ways to strengthen the economy, to rebuild infrastructure, to make sure that some of the development goals that had been set previously are accelerated to deal with some of the economic contraction" in Liberia.
Liberia, once the country worst hit by Ebola, has registered 4,037 of around 9,600 deaths in the epidemic, which began in Guinea in December 2013.
At its height in the final four months of last year, Liberia and Sierra Leone were recording between 300 and 550 confirmed, suspect and probable cases a week.
The latest data from the World Health Organization shows fewer than 400 new Ebola cases across the three countries in the three weeks to Sunday.
"The one critical element in all of this is our people, particularly our community of people. They took charge," Sirleaf said.
"They said, we're not going to die. We're not going to lose our livelihoods. We're not going to reverse the gains that we have made over the past 10 years -- 10 consecutive years of peace."