AS THE Ebola outbreak spreads to Europe, church leaders in West
Africa have called for the West to hold an "Ebola Sunday", to
encourage prayer and more financial aid for the region.
A nurse in Spain, Teresa Romero, this week became the first
person to have contracted the Ebola virus outside Africa. She
became infected after treating a Spanish missionary, Fr Manuel
Garcia Viejo, who had been repatriated from Sierra Leone, and died
in a hospital in Madrid. Four other people are in quarantine, and
about 50 others who may have had contact with Mrs Romero are being
It is not known how Mrs Romero was exposed to the virus; she
wore protective clothing, and only twice entered the room where Fr
Viejo was dying. The European Commission has asked Spain to
investigate how Mrs Romero was infected. Staff at the Madrid
hospital staged a public protest this week, complaining that
training to look after Ebola-infected patients had been
A 42-year-old Liberian called Thomas Duncan has become the first
person to die from Ebola on American soil. He tested positive for
the virus ten days after arriving in the United States. A local
sheriff who visited Mr Duncan's home has now been
An Australian nurse who recently returned from treating Ebola
victims in Sierra Leone underwent tests in a hospital in Queensland
after reporting a raised temperature, but has now tested
The number that have died so far in the latest outbreak exceeds
3500; experts predict that 1.5 million could be infected by
David Cameron held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss
how to combat the threat from the virus, amid reports that four
hospitals in England were on standby to receive infected
On Thursday, it was announced that 700 British soldiers would be
sent to Sierra Leone to help contain the spread of Ebola. The
troops will build five hospitals to treat infected patients.
The UN has said that the international response to the
worst-ever outbreak of the virus is lagging: only a quarter of the
$988 million needed has been raised so far.
The worst-affected countries are Guinea, where the outbreak
first began, ten months ago; Liberia; and Sierra Leone.
The UN has sent a global mission, based in Ghana, to respond to
the crisis in West Africa. The Primate of West Africa, Dr Daniel
Sarfo, called on fellow Christians around the world to "express
their solidarity by observing one Sunday as Ebola Sunday, to pray
and mobilise resources for the affected area in the sub-region of
West Africa. "Now that Ebola is at war against humanity, the world
must act now to stop Ebola."
Clergy in Ghana have announced that they will not shake hands or
embrace during the Peace, and will administer holy communion only
by intinction. Other dioceses in West Africa have announced similar
The national health-adviser for World Vision Sierra Leone,
Allieu Bangura, said that there was a "narrow window of
opportunity" for the West to act to bring the epidemic under
control: "We have to double our efforts if we are to catch up with
the outbreak. Huge international commitment and investment is
needed within the next one to two weeks."
World Vision is involved with the World Health Organisation's
Ebola task-force. It is distributing four million rubber gloves to
health-care workers, and 8000 gallons of chlorine, to help
eliminate the virus.
Tomi Ajayi, who works for Christian Aid, recently returned home
after nine months in Sierra Leone. She said that the measures put
in place to try to control the outbreak - including laws that limit
the number of people who can ride in taxis, a ban on seatbelts, and
the cancellation of exams - were hitting Sierra Leoneans hard.
One of her neighbours died of an unrelated illness during the
"lockdown" organised by the government to try to halt the spread of
the virus, because he could not get to hospital.
At first, she said, people had thought that the virus was a
"myth" perpetrated by the West; but, as it crept closer to the
capital, Freetown, unease had grown.
Medical facilities in West Africa are poor. Sierra Leone has two
doctors per 100,000 people.