The Adventist Development and Relief Agency said it was doing everything possible to contain Ebola in West Africa by educating thousands of people on how to prevent the virus from spreading and delivering food to tens of thousands more.
ADRA, which began shipping medical equipment to West Africa after the outbreak started in August, is also working closely with a hospital in Sierra Leone to improve its response to the virus.
“ADRA is on the ground in Sierra Leone and Liberia today doing everything we can to save lives and prevent more cases of Ebola developing,” said Bert Smit, head of ADRA’s U.K. branch.
The rate of new Ebola cases has slowed after a sharp uptick in September and October that alarmed the international community and prompted Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, to call for a special day of prayer on October 11. The outbreak has infected an estimated 14,000 people, mostly in West Africa, and caused 5,160 deaths, including at least 16 Adventist members.
This week, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf lifted a state of emergency in her country, the worst hit by the outbreak.
But Smit said that the fight was not over and that educating people was one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.
“It may seem simplistic, but clearing up the many misconceptions about how the virus is transmitted, teaching the importance of proper sanitation and hygiene, and training local communities to work together to fight this epidemic can save thousands of lives,” Smit said November 13 in a statement.
Ebola is only spread by direct contact with contaminated body fluids such as blood, vomit and saliva. It cannot breach protective gear such as gowns, masks, and gloves and, despite its rapid spread, is preventable with regular handwashing.
ADRA has teamed up with six health facilities that cover a population of more than 50,000 people to increase awareness of Ebola and to improve access to community services in response to the crisis, Smit said.
ADRA also is delivering food to more than 130,000 of the most vulnerable people in Liberia, where many of the 4 million population are going hungry, particularly in crowded cities where the risk of infection is highest and residents are shunning marketplaces and other public venues.
“Dressed in layers of protective clothing, our local staff are taking food to men, women, and even orphaned children who are quarantined or otherwise isolated due to the virus,” Smit said.
In Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, ADRA workers recently unloaded a $100,000 shipment of medical supplies, including gloves, facemasks, and gowns, at Cooper Adventist Hospital, which is partnered with Loma Linda University. The shipment also contained five isolation tents.
“After weeks of triaging patients in the hospital car park, staff are welcoming these shelters as a much-needed addition to their lifesaving work,” Smit said.
Cooper Adventist Hospital suspended operations for a three-week quarantine this fall after three patients died from Ebola.
In neighboring Sierra Leone, ADRA is working closely with the Masanga Leprosy Hospital in Tonkolili to improve its response to Ebola through the installation of running water, a reliable solar power system, and a perimeter fence to control those who have access to the hospital, Smit said. ADRA has also shipped gloves, facemasks, gowns and other personal protective equipment to the hospital.
“The hospital has worked closely with the local government to ensure that these supplies are used in the most appropriate way for clinical staff that are on the front line fighting against Ebola,” Smit said.
Are you affected by the Ebola crisis? Share your experience in the Comments section below or contact news editor Andrew McChesney at [email protected]. Twitter: @ARMcChesney
Adventist Review, October 11, 2014: “Ebola Kills 16 Adventists in West Africa”
Adventist Review, September 29, 2014: "Day of Prayer Called for Ebola Virus"
Adventist Review, September 9, 2014: "ADRA Teams Up With 4 Adventist Groups in Ebola Outbreak"