More than four years after last meeting in the Oval Office, the President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and President Barack Obama met on Friday at the White House. Predictably, most of the remarks were about the Ebola crisis—which has devastated Liberia and the neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone with more than 10,000 dead—and how we will move forward.
In his remarks before the meeting, President Obama noted that Liberia and the United States have an “extraordinary bond and history” (it was founded by U.S. citizens as a country for emancipated slaves), and expressed condolences for the devastation that Ebola wrought on the West African nation.
Sirleaf, who has been in the U.S. since Tuesday, has met with several high-ranking U.S. organizations and officials including representatives from USAID, as well as Secretary of State John Kerry, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the Pentagon, and Senator Chris Coons (D-Delaware), before her final meeting with the president.
According to the New York Times, Sirleaf urged the United States to maintain its assistance to her country as it continues to recover, including help with power projects to keep hospitals and new treatment centers running, monies for clean water and sanitation projects, and road construction to help the sick in rural areas get to hospitals.
For his part, President Obama had nothing but praise for our health workers and the military, which has helped to take fatality numbers that were predicted to be dire (in September 2014, the Centers for Disease Control predicted that more than 1.4 million would die if there was no intervention) “down 95% from their peak.”
President Sirleaf expressed her gratitude to the American people, the military, front line responders and faith based institutions for helping in the fight against Ebola. She also said she was thankful that the United States did not succumb to the fear mongering that was strong during that time.
“We know that there was fear in this country, and we understood that. Because we feared for ourselves,” said Sirleaf. “We know that there was pressure here to be able to stop any travelling for people from Liberia. But I want to thank you for standing firm in resisting that pressure, and rallying the American people to see this for what it is.”
Watch the video of President Sirleaf and President Obama here: