Supporting Liberian church’s Ebola response

Food, supplies and prevention awareness

Posted Aug 22, 2014

[Episcopal Relief & Development press release] Episcopal Relief & Development and the Episcopal Church of Liberia are mobilizing an awareness-raising campaign about Ebola prevention and treatment through church leaders and local volunteers in five counties.  The Church is also providing food supplies for health workers and quarantined patients through emergency response centers such as Phebe Hospital in Bong County.

In addition, Episcopal Relief & Development’s Africa Regional Office in Ghana has procured and shipped protective supplies to aid the Liberian Church’s response to the deadly epidemic.

“We sent disposable masks, gowns and gloves in addition to eye protection, which will give health workers some degree of safety,” said Vanessa Pizer, Program Officer for Episcopal Relief & Development.  “However, Ebola is highly contagious and these are just the most basic measures.  What is really needed are grassroots campaigns to advance accurate information about Ebola, so people can protect themselves and respond compassionately but effectively when they know someone is sick.”

Working through local priests, the Church is disseminating accurate information in nine dialects through fifteen radio stations. Church of Liberia staff have also created flyers in local dialects with clear explanations and instructions around Ebola prevention and response.  Volunteers will distribute the flyers and post them in churches and community buildings to reach as many people as possible.

Food relief is another critical aspect of the Church’s response.  Travel restrictions, quarantines and fears of spreading Ebola through commerce have led to shortages of food and higher prices for basic goods.  The Church’s development office is procuring food items in-country and transporting them to the most severely affected regions, and distributing supplies through hospitals and relief centers.

According to the World Health Organization, as of August 20, 1,350 people have died from Ebola in West Africa.  Liberia has been hardest-hit, with 576 recorded deaths since the outbreak began in March 2014.  The current Ebola epidemic is the worst since the virus was discovered in 1976, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, then called Zaire.

Due to shortages of medical supplies in Liberia, the Episcopal Relief & Development’s Africa Regional Office in Ghana purchased supplies in Accra and sent them via airfreight to Monrovia.  The shipment was met by Church staff, who will accompany the supplies to their destinations and facilitate distribution in cooperation with local volunteers and Ebola Task Force members.

The first distributions of informational flyers and medical supplies will take place in Robertsport and Benejah cities in Cape Mount, with additional distributions in Grand Gedeh, Bong, Lofa and Rivercess.

In correspondence with Episcopal News Service, the Most Rev. Jonathan B.B. Hart, Archbishop of Liberia, stated that people are struggling with conflicting desires to care for their sick family members and prepare the bodies of those who have died with the necessity of not coming in contact with the bodily fluids through which Ebola, a hemorrhagic virus, spreads.

He said that he and other clergy and government leaders are urging people to set up hand-washing stations and to wash their hands frequently in chlorine-treated water.

“Because of the Church’s widespread presence in Liberia and its dedicated clergy and volunteer networks, they and Episcopal Relief & Development are very well positioned to promote accurate information and access areas that are hard to reach otherwise,” Pizer said.  “I am grateful to our partners there, who are putting themselves in harm’s way to try and save lives, and encourage prayers of support for them and the communities they are ministering to.”

Donations in support of Episcopal Relief & Development’s response to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa may be designated to the Disaster Response Fund.