Liberia (MNN) — The World Health Organization issued a dire Ebola warning this week concerning Liberia. Reach Beyond president Wayne Pederson explains, “Instead of being contained it’s getting worse. They’re now talking 20,000 people are going to be affected by the Ebola virus in West Africa. It has already surpassed any initial predictions and all of our attempts to confine the spread of this.”
Medical personnel on the ground in Liberia tell the WHO that as soon as a new Ebola treatment center opens, it fills up immediately to overflowing with new patients, which supports the concerns of exponential outbreak in the coming three weeks. The current outbreak is the largest on record, spreading from Guinea to Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal. It means normal Ebola control measures aren’t working.
The UN agency said aid partners need to quadruple their efforts as the plague’s death toll has topped 2,000. (It’s important to note that 1,847 who contracted the virus survived.) However, the WHO’s recommendation seems unrealistic. In Liberia, a country that, prior to the outbreak, had too few doctors and nurses, 152 healthcare workers have been infected with Ebola, and 79 have died.
Additionally, the travel bans that were enacted to prevent the spread of the disease actually slowed the flow of aid and protective gear for the workers. The African Union met this week and decided to unseal closed borders and lift bans on flights to and from affected countries.
Meanwhile, in a desperate measure to stem the tide, Sierra Leone plans a national curfew September 19-21 to allow emergency teams to visit every home in the country of six million to find people infected with Ebola and remove the dead.
A jump from around 4,000 infected to 20,000 is huge. Pederson notes that “within the culture, there’s a great suspicion about Western medical help coming in, modern medicine. There are some rumors that are being spread by some of the witch doctors in the area. They’re saying that the Western missionaries and medical community are actually spreading the virus.” In fact, “Many times, the medical teams are being blocked as they try to enter the villages.”
What’s more, the infections continue even after a patient dies. Because of the taboo associated with the virus, “Many in the communities won’t touch the bodies of somebody that’s infected, or somebody that’s died as a result of Ebola. As a result, dead bodies just lie there which makes the spreading of the disease worse.” The normal approach to the virus just isn’t working.
Reach Beyond decided on a different tactic, says Pederson. “It’s a combination of medical, sanitation education as well as pointing people to Jesus as the Great Physician.” He explains, “Our UK World office is producing a series of radio programs dealing with the prevention and the treatment of the Ebola virus.”
Because radio is the primary way of quickly spreading information, the awareness and education campaign is effective. “These radio programs are very popular, much-listened to on these community FM radio stations. They’re just helping educate the people on modern treatment, and also these programs point to Jesus.”
Combined with the medical team’s presence, there is both spiritual and physical hope. But it doesn’t stop there, says Pederson. “Pray that we would be wise in our precautions. Obviously we want to be involved in preventing the spread of the virus. Pray for protection and direction.”