International (CMP/MNN) — The death toll inflicted by the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa since February reached 1,013, and the number of people infected totaled 1,848, the World Health Organization said in a statement on Tuesday. The situation continues to worsen, which prompted the WHO to declare the Ebola outbreak a global health emergency.
Up until now, there has been no cure. However a WHO panel decided this week that using experimental drugs is ethical, even if their effectiveness or adverse effects are unknown. It’s already been done with an experimental serum dose given to two American missionaries as part of their treatment.
With the recent outbreak of Ebola in West African countries, many Compassion International sponsors have been asking if their children are safe. Compassion International spokesman Tim Glenn says, “Thankfully, no children, no staff in any of the countries where we work in Africa have been affected directly or impacted directly by this outbreak.”
Now, the not-so-good news: the reality of spreading infection exists across country borders. “We do work in three neighboring countries to where this outbreak really spread. We work in Togo, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Thankfully, we’ve not had any cases in those countries at all,” says Glenn.
Some background: Ebola virus (or Ebola hemorrhagic fever) is one of the world’s most virulent diseases with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids, and tissues of infected animals or people. Yet, it can be killed with soap and water.
That knowledge could save lives. That’s why Compassion teams are preparing a protocol in order to protect the children and staff should the outbreak spread into the countries where they work. “We’re working with the health ministries in each of those countries to get the latest information from them,” says Glenn. “We’re creating educational materials. All of our staff in those countries have gone through training already, and now they’re sharing that training with our church partners.”
Compassion is distributing educational resources to development center staff, but it’ll go further. “Every one of Compassions’ child projects is actually a church. So, we’re sitting down with each one of those churches and educating them as well. Then, that information will trickle down to the family of the children so that they are protected and prepared as well.”
“Our prayers go out to the individuals and their families affected by this disease,” says Sidney Muisyo, Compassion’s Africa regional vice president. “Our hope is for the swift containment of the Ebola outbreak in Africa. Compassion’s highest priority remains the safety and well-being of the children and families we serve.”
Although concerned, the Compassion staff has things to accomplish and won’t let fear get in their way. Glenn explains, “We stand on the Bible, and we understand that these kinds of things are going to happen in this world. What we can do as a church, as a ministry organization that partners with churches is: prepare people, protect people, pray for people, and share the Gospel with those who may not know it.”