MONROVIA, Liberia (AP) — Former President Bill Clinton said Monday he was pleased to see Liberia's progress in the fight against the deadly Ebola disease, and urged residents of the West African nation to support those who survived.
Clinton spoke during a visit to Liberia while on a nine-day tour of Clinton Foundation projects in Africa with his daughter, Chelsea. The two met with survivors and health officials.
"With five days away for Liberia being officially declared Ebola-free ... I think you're going in the right direction," he said. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf nodded.
The last confirmed patient in Liberia died on March 27. If no new cases are identified there by May 9, the country could be declared Ebola-free, though some experts warn no country will be safe until the entire region wipes out Ebola. The virus, spread through direct contact with an Ebola patient's blood or other bodily fluids, has killed more than 10,800 people mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone during this largest outbreak ever.
Clinton praised Liberia's post-Ebola recovery plan and called for a global support, pledging backing from his foundation.
He said when all the Ebola bans are lifted, "I want to say to all the people of Liberia you can redeem your suffering" by accepting those who came down with and survived the epidemic. "Don't' be afraid... they should be embraced and you should go forward together."
Earlier, in a meeting with Liberian officials and health care workers, Chelsea called for a moment of silence for people who died from Ebola.
She praised the "generosity and great pride" of Liberian health care workers and doctors who combatted the disease and "to re-echo what my father said" called for the rebuilding of the health sector of Liberia.
American officials are shutting down a special treatment unit set up in Liberia, where more than 4,600 people have died from Ebola in the past year. The United States government last year deployed more than 2,000 troops to fight Ebola in Liberia, setting up about 15 treatment centers. Six of them are still being actively used for various purposes.