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Help us by holding ‘Ebola Sunday’ say church leaders

10 October 2014

by a staff reporter


Prayer: nearly 150 people attend a service dedicated to Thomas Eric Duncan, a Wilshire Baptist church, in Dallas, on Wednesday

Prayer: nearly 150 people attend a service dedicated to Thomas Eric Duncan, a Wilshire Baptist church, in Dallas, on Wednesday

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 monitored.

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 inadequate.

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 quarantined. 

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 negative. 

The number that have died so far in the latest outbreak exceeds 3500; experts predict that 1.5 million could be infected by January.

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 patients.

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 precautions.

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.

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