Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fighting Ebola Empty-Handed And A World Away

Imagine a world where you can't leave your house because death lurks outside the door. Imagine a world where the body of your neighbor rots in the stifling heat and gathers flies inside her door and no one comes to take it away for a proper burial because surely they would die as well. It's hard to imagine because we can't. It's virtually impossible for us in America to take our mind to a place where life is truly but a vapor, a visible wisp of matter that can be extinguished seemingly in an instant.

This is life across a wide swath of West Africa, where the ebola virus has brought death to the doors of thousands of families in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. We've all read or heard the reports of ebola through media, with the latest alarming news that more than 1 million people could be afflicted with the virus by early next year. My personal knowledge of ebola comes through Rev. Samuel Kargbo, a minister in Sierra Leone who we have been working with in TEN3 (I am communications manager for the Transformational Education Network, or TEN3) to establish one of our computer training outreach classes at his school. Those plans have been put on hold as the ebola crisis deepens in Sierra Leone.

Last week, I received an email from Rev. Kargbo, who thanked me for praying for him and his family. It is a very terrible thing to see neighbors around you dying from a disease, he wrote. So far, he has lost three close relatives who live nearby. There are many dead bodies lying in houses -- four, more or less, in some houses, he wrote.

Rev. Kargbo continues: "The sad thing that has happened is this: since as I told you last the government could not meet the needs of the affected cases, quarantined families, the wife of my relative who died yesterday, his 22-month-old daughter, and two ward children have left the house without being quarantined. Who knows what may happen to the people they come in contact with? We pray that they never contracted the virus, but if they did, then it is obvious they will definitely pass the virus to other people."

Rev. Kargbo describes how the surviving relatives scattered to different parts of the city and country the morning of Sept. 23. He also describes what has transpired over the past two weeks. "Five people have died in connection to the same first victim that died on Wednesday, September 10," he writes. "Two of the women are neighbors who took care of the corpse before burial. We called the 117 number that is given to us and the burial team's number but nobody came to bury the first corpse.

"We (my wife and I) have discussed about how we could intervene but we could not because the lady had left the house this morning before we could send food stuff there. We have called her to come back to the house as soon as possible so that we could share from the little that we have. That is what the Bible says is true religion, taking care of the orphans and widows. As stated earlier, due to several factors, the citizens’ needs could not be adequately addressed in this crisis time, except friends and relatives step in to alleviate the suffering and deaths. One corpse that is said to have died four days before the burial team came to collect it and one infected person were collected three days ago close to our house. We do not want to do that but we have restricted the inflow of children into our compound to play. One way that we could be further involved in helping to save lives, especially lives of those relative who have left for the village, the wife and the baby is by assisting them with food items and restrict their movements for three weeks and see if they will report sick. If any one of them reports sick we will guide them going to the hospital for the test to find out if it is ebola. According to the teaching we receive, early detection and early treatment gives hope to the affected victim to survive."

He closes the email by saying he has temporarily closed his school for three weeks to assess the situation. At that point he will reassess the crisis and determine if the school should remain closed. So far, three of his students have fallen ill, Rev. Kargbo wrote. None of them have ebola, however.

I have asked him how I can help but the situation is so dire and chaotic in Sierra Leone that it doesn't appear there's anything I can do. Except pray. This week, my supporting agency for my mission work, Serving In Mission, has called for believers to have a week of prayer for the end of the ebola crisis in West Africa. Remember people such as Rev. Kargbo in your prayers. Remember the countries of West Africa. Remember Psalm 46:1: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."

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