Help prevent the spread of Ebola

CHURCH members are being urgently asked to pray, give and act to support people working non-stop for an end to the deadliest ever Ebola outbreak.

Medical staff from the UK are particularly being called on to consider whether they could join teams to staff treatment centres in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

Janice Proud, the Relief and Programmes Manager of the Anglican Alliance, reported that there have been nearly 5,000 reported deaths from the virus so far.

“The epidemic is critically serious,” Janice said. “Despite the current international response the number of people infected is expected to continue to increase. Other countries are preparing in case Ebola spreads further afield.”

Janice, who is married to the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, the Bishop of Reading, noted that the UK is not at risk because we have strong health care systems compared to the under-resourced areas affected.

Churches take action

Churches in the affected countries are already taking action. They have strong grassroots links, and church leaders are working to spread correct Ebola-prevention messaging, to promote safe burial practices, to help people deal with grief in communities when traditional funeral rituals are not possible, and to prevent stigmatisation of survivors.

In addition they are supporting medical work. Janice reports that the Bishop of Freetown has provided land for the construction of an isolation unit; the Diocese of Liberia has provided food for patients at a clinic in Monrovia; and the Diocese of Guinea, with the support of Anglican mission agency Us, has been distributing protective kits and equipping church clinics.

Milton Keynes based World Vision is one of many charities working to combat Ebola. Justin Byworth, its Chief Executive, noted: “World Vision have been working to educate people and tackle the stigma as well as providing thousands of sets of protective gear to front line health workers.”

To illustrate the scale of the issues, he told the story of Sarah from Sierra Leone who went to a clinic with her four-year-old son. “Sarah was unconscious for three days but when she came round she learned her child had died. ‘I don’t know what happened to him or how his body was buried. They gave me a certificate to say I was Ebola free, and I came home but my neighbours have told me they don’t want me here,’ she said.”

Justin said World Vision teams were also working non-stop to provide burials for victims. He quoted a member of one team, who said: “It is heartbreaking to watch these families but all we can do is ensure people are buried safely and with some dignity.”

Meanwhile Radiohead bassist Colin Greenwood launched an appeal for young reporters in Liberia to save lives through the Children’s Radio Foundation. The President and Executive Chair of the Foundation is the Revd Charlotte Bannister-Parker, who is a priest in Summertown in Oxford. Colin said: “The Children’s Radio Foundation has a unique network of young radio journalists and radio stations across five African countries including Liberia, the epicentre of the disease. These young reporters can play a vital role in the fight against the epidemic – helping to bring life-saving information to their communities. Radio is the best way to get through to people.”


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