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Bishops call for Ebola focus to be on overseas care

17 October 2014

by a staff Reporter


Warning: a health poster in Monrovia, capital of Liberia, which has suffered the most deaths from the Ebola virus

Warning: a health poster in Monrovia, capital of Liberia, which has suffered the most deaths from the Ebola virus...

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 said.

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 Walworth.

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 with it."

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.

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