WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama said Friday that the world has made "extraordinary strides in driving back Ebola" because of the efforts of the U.S., Liberia and other partners but both he and Liberia's leader said more must be done to combat the disease.
Addressing reporters before an Oval Office meeting with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Obama said reported Ebola cases in West Africa, the region hit hardest by the outbreak, are down 95 percent from the peak of the crisis that panicked the world last year.
The deadly virus has killed more than 9,600 people and infected nearly 24,000 others in the hardest-hit countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, according to latest figures from the World Health Organization.
Several Americans, including hospdital workers in the U.S. and American aid workers overseas, contracted Ebola but recovered after treatment.
Obama said the outbreak produced a level of death and destruction not often seen in modern history. He praised Sirleaf's handling of the issue, saying that because of her leadership and heroism and efforts by the U.S., "what could have been an even more devastating crisis has been brought under control."
But in terms of stamping out Ebola, Obama said "our job is not yet done." He said he and Sirlfeaf would discuss how to avoid complacency, given that Ebola remains a threat. Obama said they would also discuss ways to support Liberia's economy, which is ailing because of the crisis, and help rebuild its infrastructure.
Sirleaf thanked Obama for his leadership, including an effort he undertook to pressure other countries to send money and supplies to West Africa.
Obama also sent nearly 3,000 U.S. troops to Liberia to build treatment units. He recently announced that only about 100 of those troops will remain in Liberia beyond April to continue working with the country's military, regional partners and U.S. civilians.
"We know that there was fear in this country and we understand that, because we were fearful ourselves," Sirleaf said, referencing calls for the U.S. to ban travel from the affected region. "We want to thank you for standing firm and resisting that pressure, and rallying the American people to see this for what it was."
Sirleaf agreed with Obama's assessment that there is more to be done to combat Ebola, noting that Sierra Leone and Guinea "have not reached the level of success and progress that we have."
Sirleaf also met Friday with Secretary of State John Kerry.
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