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DEC launches appeal to halt Ebola

31 October 2014

by a staff reporter


Taking preven­t-ative measures: a teacher uses a thermometer to test pupils' temperatures for symptoms of Ebola, at a church school in Lagos, Nigeria

Taking preven­t-ative measures: a teacher uses a thermometer to test pupils' temperatures for symptoms of Ebola, at a church school in Lagos, N...

AS THE official death toll from the Ebola virus climbs over 5000 - all but 27 of them in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea - the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launched an appeal: the first in its 50-year history dedicated to a disease outbreak.

On Tuesday, DEC chief executive Saleh Saeed said that the unprecedented appeal was "a sign of just how serious the situation in West Africa has become . . . Without urgent action to stop the spread of Ebola and to help those af- fected by the crisis, parts of West Africa face catastrophe within 60 days."

On Tuesday, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, called for thousands of medical volunteers to help stem the spread of the deadly virus. At least 5000 medics and support staff were needed to beat the disease, he said, but many potential recruits were too scared to travel to West Africa.

"With the fear factor going out of control in so many places, I hope healthcare professionals will understand that when they took their oath to become a health care worker, it was precisely for moments like this," he said.

Australia this week suspended visas for people travelling from West Africa, a decision criticised by Amnesty International and the governments of affected countries.

A government spokesman for Uganda - which has had no cases of the virus - told the BBC: "Western countries are creating mass panic which is unhelpful in containing a contagious disease like Ebola. If they create mass panic. . . This fear will eventually spread beyond ordinary people to health workers or people who transport the sick, and then what will happen? Entire populations will be wiped out."

Churches in affected countries are playing an important part in spreading prevention messages about the virus (News, 10 October).

Tearfund's project officer in Sierra Leone, Patricia Conteh, said: "The rate of infection increases every day, and there is now very minimal interaction. We don't hug, we don't shake hands, we don't have contact.

"The church is strategically placed to help because people take what the pastor says and act on it. The church has a big, big role in this fight. The church needs to keep being proactive."

Churches throughout the region are now administering communion by intinction, and changing the way they do the peace, to avoid physical contact.

Tearfund has supplied churches with hygiene kits to demonstrate how to avoid catching the virus, and distributing thousands of kits to families.

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