We Are Africa - I Stand by Sierra Leone

On Africa Day Monday, May 25, President Bai Koroma celebrated unity with Ebola survivors as Sierra Leone marked a tough year fighting what has been described as one of the deadliest and most complex outbreaks of the virus disease.

Monday’s event is part of a national anti-stigma campaign.

The campaign is aimed at people who don’t realize the impact their attitudes and behaviors can have or who don't know what to say and do.

The symbolic group photograph taken on the grounds of State House in Freetown will be displayed on billboards across Sierra Leone, with advertising on TV, in the national press, on radio, and online.

Earlier in the year, Brussels Airlines launched an initiative called "Africa is not Ebola”

During the outbreak, which primarily affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Brussels Airlines continued a twice-weekly service, providing essential aircraft for medical equipment and health workers.

At State House Monday, President Koroma said Sierra Leone has recorded 4,013 survivors as of May 24, 2015. This, he said, happened because of government’s efforts in conjunction with international partners.

The Defeating Ebola in Sierra Leone conference held in London October 2014 rallied global support to contain, control and defeat Ebola in Sierra Leone.

The conference - jointly held by the United Kingdom and Sierra Leone - called on governments and donors to join their international action plan to tackle the virus.

On Monday, President Koroma commended AL haji Moijueh Kaikai, Sierra Leone’s Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs minister, for planning programs for Ebola survivors.

Yusufu Kabba of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors described the meeting with President Koroma as a special moment. Kabba thanked government for providing free medical care for all Ebola survivors, and expressed appreciation for other livelihood benefits.

Speaking after a meeting with  President Barack Obama at the White House in April, President Koroma told Voice of America (VOA) he was grateful for U.S. assistance to help combat Ebola.

President Obama had invited the leaders of the three West African countries hardest hit by the Ebola epidemic РLiberian President Ellen Sirleaf and Guinean President Alpha Cond̩ Рto assess progress against the disease and toward socioeconomic recovery, the VOA said.

Koroma also told VOA the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.

"As a result of Ebola, most businesses shut down," he said. "A good number of the mining companies ceased operations, flights were canceled to the country, tourism was almost brought to a standstill, and even within the country, businesses that were operating scaled down substantially."

The World Bank estimated that Ebola will cost the three West African countries at least $1.6 billion in lost economic growth.

Koroma said his government plans to revamp its health system. That includes establishing a Center for Disease Control to help train health officials to be better equipped to combat future disease outbreaks. The president said  the country is focused on rebuilding its health system and economy.

As of May 13, 2015, more than 26,700 cases have been reported by the World Health Organization. But progress is being made: Liberia has been declared Ebola-free, and transmission is falling in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

In a statement released to mark Africa Day on May 25, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the dominant story of the year has been the Ebola crisis that swept West Africa, claiming at least 11,000 lives and threatening hard-won social, economic and political achievements.

Mr. Ban said Africa Day 2015 must highlight the courage and determination it took to make remarkable progress to end the Ebola outbreak.

"We have to intensify efforts to get to zero and stay at zero cases, repair the damage and strengthen social and institutional resilience throughout the continent," Mr. Ban urged.

To help mobilize support for this important task, the UN chief announced that will convene an International Ebola Recovery Conference at the United Nations in New York in July.

Africa Day is the annual commemoration on May 25 of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

On this day, leaders of 30 of the 32 independent African states signed a founding charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The Organization of African Unity was established with 30 members.

In 1991, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) established the African Economic Community, and in 2002 the OAU established its own successor, the African Union.

However, the name and date of Africa Day has been retained as a celebration of African unity.

The African Union now consists of 54 members - every African nation with the exception of Morocco, which opted out because of the Western Sahara conflict.

Established on July 9th, 2002, the African Union was formed as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU).

The theme for Africa Day 2015 is 'We Are Africa'

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