Liberia (MNN) — Ebola: the crisis swept through West Africa over the course of several months, prompting a global scare.
The World Health Organization released figures this week showing that nearly 3,000 Liberians died from Ebola since it surfaced last spring and exploded this summer. The country bore the brunt of the illness, but now it seems, things are turning a corner. Liberia’s president hopes to defeat the dreaded disease by Christmas.
While Peggy Maynard, Global Fingerprints Liberia Coordinator, shares some relief at good news, there’s a cautionary note. “We’re very thankful that the rate of infections does seem to be slowing, and we pray that it will continue. However, I don’t want people to think that the crisis in Liberia is over, because it isn’t by a long-shot.”
Ebola has left long-lasting scars in Liberia. “Their economy has been devastated. About half of the people in the country are unemployed still because of the crisis, and they had a high unemployment rate before that. The price of food is still very high.” The healthcare system has been decimated because the caregivers paid the ultimate price to help other Ebola victims. “This is going to take many years to replace these healthcare workers and bring their healthcare back up to standard and open the clinics. This is going to be a long recovery even if Ebola is eradicated today.”
Plus, with 3,000 deaths, there’s an orphan crisis now. Maynard shares about one of their church partners. “A pastor and his wife both died, and they left eight children orphaned. So they have been taken in by relatives. These children are fortunate to have been taken in. You can imagine the family that already has their own family, probably unemployed, and then suddenly, they have eight more children to take care of.”
Global Fingerprints is working on family-based solutions within Liberia for the orphans because, says Maynard, the government in Liberia put adoptions on hold 6-8 years ago. “So, adopting these children out of the country is not an option at this point.”
Another facet of the problem is the fear and stigma that surrounds Ebola in Liberia. “Some of these children are not being accepted by anyone because of the fear of Ebola, and they’re left on the streets to fend for themselves. So, organizations are trying to reach out and provide a safe place for these children.”
They need help, and Global Fingerprints–the child sponsorship wing of the Evangelical Free Church, is stepping in to assist. “We have entered these children into our Global Fingerprints system, and we are trying to find sponsors for them, which will pay for their healthcare, their education, and it’ll help the families with food.”
Church partners plan to open a temporary orphanage to get some of these children off the streets. This has been met with such a strong positive response that “church partners in Liberia have a plan to plant 50 new churches by January because they see that this crisis is making people think about their mortality. It’s putting them into a position where they feel vulnerable, they’re seeking answers about life, and they’re open to the Gospel.”
What can you do? You can provide an avenue for hope to grow. Maynard says first, there’s prayer: “Pray for our church partners there who are bravely ministering to people, without regard for their own safety, in order to bring them the hope of the Gospel.”
Then, there’s action: “Our church has set up an Ebola Crisis Response Fund, and that money will be used to meet some for these urgent needs for food and healthcare. Just pray that the crisis will be brought under control.”