Komlan Soe

It’s been a year since the height of an Ebola outbreak that ravaged West Africa and kept communities in the United States on high alert.  In Rhode Island, the crisis hit home with a large Liberian and West-African born community.

A group called Ebola Be Gone emerged as a driving force for raising awareness and providing supplies for those affected. One of its leaders, Komlan Soe, joined us in the studio to reflect on how that experience brought his community together and changed his life.

John Bender / RIPR

Members of Rhode Island’s Liberian community are cheering news that the last Ebola patient in Liberia has been released. But many remain concerned about the future of Liberia.

Matthew Kai is the leader of the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Providence.  His congregation is primarily Liberian.  Kai led them through months of anxiety at the height of the Ebola outbreak.  He says things have quieted down since then… but now he fears world aid will evaporate

Timothy Flanigan

A Rhode Island doctor has just returned from Liberia where for three months he trained health care workers fighting the deadly Ebola virus. Dr. Timothy Flanigan is one of several Rhode Islanders who have traveled to the West African nation to fight the disease that the World Health Organization estimates to have killed some 6500 people.

Shortly after arriving back home, he sat down with me to talk about what he saw and where he sees hope.

You can listen to our conversation here.

The Nebraska Medical Center

There were times when Ashoka Mukpo didn’t know if he would survive Ebola. Mukpo spent about two and a half weeks in a Nebraska hospital after coming down with Ebola while working as a freelance cameraman in Liberia

He is now back home in Providence.

Mukpo said even thought his symptoms got worse, he knew he was in good hands. After about twelve days he could see in his doctors’ eyes that he was probably going to make it.  “I felt that it was manageable, I never felt serious panic coming from any of the nurses,” he said. “So I felt that I was in relatively good hands.”

Taylor Wilson / Nebraska Medical Center

The Rhode Islander diagnosed with Ebola is asking the public to give him space and privacy as he leaves a Nebraska hospital today and heads home to Providence. Ashoka Mukpo spent two and a half weeks in isolation to treat the deadly virus.

Doctors at The Nebraska Medical Center said age was the main factor as to why the 33-year-old recovered more quickly than the Massachusetts doctor whom they also treated.

At a press conference, University of Nebraska Medical Center chancellor Dr. Jeffrey Gold read a statement by Mukpo filled with gratitude for his medical care.


The Rhode Islander who was the fifth American to return to the US to be treated for Ebola, is virus-free. Doctors say he will be released from isolation this morning.

Rhode Island Nurses Prep For Ebola

Oct 16, 2014

The transmission of Ebola to two Texas nurses has raised concern among health care workers nationwide. And there are concerns as well in Rhode Island.

Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, Donna Policastro, says Rhode Island nurses are worried but well prepared for a potential Ebola outbreak. Policastro says the situation in Dallas has given nurses and hospital officials more reason to plan than panic.

Rhode Island’s Liberian community and the state Department of Health are meeting weekly on the Ebola crisis.  One top concern is monitoring family and friends who travel from Liberia.

John Bender / RIPR

Leaders in Rhode Island’s Liberian community are figuring how to deal with the Ebola outbreak that has just begun to reach U.S. shores. Many Liberians travel between the U.S. and the West African country.  The state Department of Health is now asking members of the Liberian population to monitor friends and relatives for signs of symptoms.  They're asking people to check their temperature at least twice a day.

It’s not just hospitals in Rhode Island that are preparing for the possible arrival of Ebola cases. The state’s prison system is also getting ready.

The department of corrections is responsible for the health care of more than three thousand inmates on any given day.  The institution takes in whomever the justice system sends – regardless of their health. That’s why corrections medical director doctor Fred Vohr says they must be ready for anything.

The Rhode Islander diagnosed with Ebola is being treated with an experimental drug. Ashoka Mukpo is in isolation at the Nebraska Medical Center where doctors are treating him with an experimental antiviral drug called Brindicofovir. This is the drug that is also being used to treat Thomas Eric Duncan, the man in Dallas who is the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S.

Ashoka Mukpo Facebook

The parents of the Rhode Islander diagnosed with Ebola said their son is relieved to be back in the U.S. Ashoka Mukpo arrived Monday morning at a Nebraska hospital for treatment.

Mukpo walked off the plane and was loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher. Once at the hospital, he spoke briefly with his parents through video conference. “His first reaction was, ‘I’m sorry I put you myself through this situation for you guys.’ So his first concerns were more what this would do to us,” said his father, Mitchell Levy.

Higher Ground International

Rhode Island has one of the largest Liberian communities in the country. Their homeland is at the center of the Ebola epidemic ravaging West Africa. Many Liberians living in Rhode Island have been working hard to help their compatriots back home with supplies and donations. Rhode Island Public Radio’s health care reporter Kristin Gourlay speaks with one of them, Henrietta White-Holder, founder of an organization called Higher Ground International.

The head of the state’s health department says there’s a chance Rhode Island could have one or two imported cases of the Ebola virus. That’s because of travel within Rhode Island’s sizeable Liberian community, the largest population per capita in the U.S.  

Dr. Michael Fine said hospitals have teams and quarantined areas standing by should a case appear in Rhode Island. He doesn’t think that once here Ebola will spread.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Liberians living in Rhode Island rallied on the steps of the Statehouse today to draw attention to the Ebola outbreak that’s killed more than 900 people in West Africa. They're seeking donations to send to Liberia to help stop the spread of the disease.

Dozens showed up to march and chant, holding signs that read “Ebola Be Gone” and “no new cases.” Then they gathered on the steps of the Statehouse, cheering on speakers from the Liberian community. Among them was CCRI student Fanta Yah. She says her family is safe so far from the Ebola virus. But of course, she’s worried.