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An Ebola Success Story In Northern Liberia


We turn now to the Ebola crisis. Three states - New York, New Jersey and Illinois - have imposed a quarantine for medical workers returning from West Africa. Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, landed in Guinea today to oversee the Ebola response in the region and drum up more international support. She'll also visit Sierra Leone and Liberia, the nation hardest hit by the outbreak. And that is where we reached NPR's Jon Hamilton. I spoke with him from the Liberian border town of Foya.

JON HAMILTON, BYLINE: This is where the epidemic started. People think that somebody came - somebody with Ebola came across the border from Guinea and landed in this area. And Foya is a small town in the county of Lofa where they had just an outbreak that horrified everybody. Hundreds of people in the area died. And this is where Medecins Sans Frontieres set up their care unit. We wanted to come back and see how things might have changed.

MARTIN: So what are you seeing, Jon? Where are you right now?

HAMILTON: Well, I'm actually standing in the middle of the Medecins Sans Frontieres compound here. I'm in the administrative area, and you can hear birds chirping, perhaps. But this is a place where NGO set up an operation that has handled probably as many Ebola patients as any place in rural Liberia.

MARTIN: And what is the situation? Where is the epidemic at this point?

HAMILTON: Earlier today I toured the treatment area, and they showed me the areas where, at one time, they had well over 100 patients with Ebola. Today there are three. So it is just a dramatic, dramatic change. And part of it is that there has been, since they set up the unit here, a place to take people who are very sick. That has meant that they are not at home where they're at risk of infecting other people. But they say the biggest change is probably that they have sent health workers out into the community, people from the community who know the people here, and they have told them that the people at Medecins Sans Frontieres are not the people bringing Ebola but the people who are here to help them with that. And they've taught them about hand washing about how not to have contact with bodies. And it has made just an enormous difference.

MARTIN: You were in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, earlier. How does that compare? What are things like there?

HAMILTON: According to the WHO report, there were more than 400 new cases in the past week there. So it does not appear the epidemic is slowing down. What has happened in Monrovia is that there's been a lot more organization. There are Ebola teams that respond if there is a person. People have really gotten back to living their lives. So we talked to a man who sells art. And business is slow, but he has to be back out there. We talked to a woman who is a hairdresser. And she is back doing business because if they don't work, they don't eat. They are going on with their lives and earning a living because they have to.

MARTIN: NPR's Jon Hamilton in Liberia. Thank you so much, Jon.

HAMILTON: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.