Desmond Thomas reports on the deadly Ebola virus in Sierra Leone.
“OUR COUNTRY is at war with a vicious enemy,” Ernest Bai Koroma, the President of Sierra Leone, said this week as he announced a ban on all 2014 Christmas and New Year public celebrations in an attempt to curb the deadly Ebola outbreak that has ravaged his country.
Desmond Thomas pastors the Ministry of the Word church in Freetown, Sierra Leone, and heads the Multiply Network of churches there. He reports on how the church, network and nation of Sierra Leone are coping with the Ebola crisis.
Society in Sierra Leone has changed as we know it. Before Ebola came we were a beautiful community where children played with other children in the neighbourhood, holding hands together as they walked to school but, for over six months now, there has been no school. Children are kept indoors because of the fear of contracting Ebola.
Children are kept indoors because of the fear of contracting Ebola.
Church as we know it is not the same. We cannot shake hands, lay hands on anyone for healing, let alone embrace a brother. We can’t put chairs together as we used to: there must be a gap on our left and right to avoid touching anyone. The ushers welcome without a handshake and offerings are counted with gloves. Many house group and Bible School meetings are cancelled.
You cannot have access to relatives in Ebola quarantine areas. Family members die and those who have not contracted the disease have to powerlessly look on as medics take their loved ones to medical centres where they are not allowed to visit. Others have to look on at the corpses of their loved ones as they are placed in body bags and taken for burial in an unmarked grave.
People are scared: a fever brings fear to many even though it is not Ebola. Many private hospitals are now closed down. Sierra Leone doctors and nurses are dying because they are contracting Ebola. Doctors are afraid to treat other diseases, not knowing what they will be facing. Many are dying as a result, even though they don't have Ebola. Because of the state of emergency in the country, anyone who dies of any sort of disease is put in a body bag and buried.
Food is scarce and expensive. Many people are out of work and have no income which means they can buy very little. In some quarantine areas there is lack of food. The economy of Sierra Leone is shut down. The problem is so vast that the help we receive is like a drop in the ocean.Public taxis that used to carry three passengers at the back only take two passengers now. Okada (motorbike taxis) drivers have to dress in protective clothes and carry water for passengers to wash their hands in before they climb on the back.
We thank God that the Multiply Christian Network has been able to help by providing food and sanitation equipment for the pastors and congregations of the Multiply Churches in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The pastors are very grateful because, for many, their supply of food had run dry. Our fellowship of Sierra Leone Christian ministers in the UK have visited us and other Christian organisations have sent containers of food and sanitary products. Nigerian Churches have also helped us.
The pastors and members of the Multiply Churches are jealous for your prayers and are very grateful for any help and funding.
If you would like to donate to the needs of the Multiply churches in West Africa during the Ebola crisis click the following link:
The Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in Sudan and near the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo (hence the name).
Today Ebola is primarily found in tropical areas of Central and West Africa.
The recent epidemic of Ebola began in Guinea when a two year-old boy contacted the disease in December 2013. The disease soon spread to neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is transmitted through body fluids.
By the end of November 2014, 6928 people in West Africa had died of the disease according to the World Health Organisation and over 16,000 had been infected. (The figures may well be far higher than this.) The worst hit country is Sierra Leone.
Ebola symptoms are fever, muscle pain and a sore throat, leading to vomiting, diarrhoea and internal and external bleeding. Around 70% of present day Ebola victims die of the disease.