THE scale of the suffering in West Africa should be in the
forefront of people's minds when considering the Ebola virus, not
the fear of a small outbreak in the UK, two C of E bishops have
Their words came as the World Health Organisation (WHO)
announced that the number of dead had reached 4447. Anthony
Banbury, Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Ebola, told a
special session of the UN Security Council on Tuesday that, unless
more concerted action was taken against the disease, the world
would "face an entirely unprecedented situation for which we do not
have a plan".
The Government this week introduced a much criticised system for
screening passengers returning to the UK from West Africa, at a
cost of £9 million.
The Area Bishop of Woolwich, the Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave, has
argued that the focus is wrong. He has several large congregations
from the Sierra Leonean community, particularly in Peckham and
There was "some fear, a great deal of anxiety, and more sadness"
among the community, many of whom had suffered family bereavements
in West Africa.
"It's right we take precautions here, but the scale of suffering
over there is enormous, particularly in Sierra Leone and Liberia.
That is where our practical support should be focused, and the main
focus of our prayers."
The Area Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Jonathan Clark, told the
Christian Today website: "We should focus on the desperate
need of people in the countries where Ebola is raging unchecked,
and not focus on the very, very small risk that it might come to
this country. Obviously we need to take necessary precautions. But
the important thing is to get help to the countries which just do
not have the facilities, the infrastructure, and the staff to deal
Southwark diocese is planning a day of prayer and a vigil for
the countries at the forefront of the epidemic.
The death rate from this outbreak, which began in Guinea, had
been thought to be about 50 per cent of those who contracted the
disease. But the WHO said on Tuesday that it was more likely to be
70 per cent, because of unrecorded deaths.
In the United States, it was reported that a nurse who
contracted the virus in the country's first case of an infection
within its borders had been given a blood transfusion from Dr Kent
Brantly, an aid worker with the Christian agency Samaritan's Purse
(News, 8 August). Dr Brantly contracted Ebola while treating
patients with the virus in Liberia, but recovered after he was
flown to the US.