A huge concerted effort is needed to contain the spread of the Ebola virus, says CAFOD Director Chris Bain.
The World Health Organisation has reported that the number of people infected with the Ebola virus in West Africa has reached 10,000, with 4,992 deaths. Mali is the latest country in the region to record a death.
This is an unprecedented challenge, and the prognosis for the spread of this virus is unpredictable. However, the overwhelming nature of the crisis must not leave us paralysed with fear and hopelessness; we need to take extraordinary measures to tackle it head on, and save lives.
A coordinated global effort is now underway, and given the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to respond, the Disasters Emergency Committee, of which CAFOD is a member, has launched an appeal.
The Ebola outbreak hits hardest at the poor and the vulnerable in affected countries, where healthcare systems are fragile, and where people are unable to go to their farms or earn a living in the market-place.
Our first line of defence is educating people about the virus and how to avoid catching it. We are working with our trusted Church and non-Church partners, who are already rolling out a prevention campaign for communities in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.
CAFOD has been supporting the training of priests, catechists and Church volunteers who, with bravery, compassion, and selflessness, are on the ground, dedicated to reducing the number of new infections in their communities. Many are travelling to small, remote villages miles away from main cities and towns, delivering life-saving information about safe burial practices, and explaining why traditional funerals – which involve washing and dressing the dead body of a loved one and keeping the body in the house for the wake – are one of the quickest ways for the virus to spread.
The impact of Ebola is wider than just health needs. CAFOD partners tell us that food prices have sky-rocketed, and many in their communities cannot afford to buy food for their families. The Director of Caritas Kenema in Sierra Leone, Patrick Jamiru, said: “Every day we see a stream of people outside the Bishop’s house. They tell us that they don’t have food, they are unable to work, and the Church is now their last hope.”
As well as providing education on prevention, we also need to make sure that human dignity is preserved. Caritas aid workers are already dropping off food in designated distribution places for collection, but we urgently need to reach more quarantined and vulnerable families.
We know one thing with absolute and painful certainty: if we do not play our part in the concerted international effort to halt the spread of this disease, communities across West Africa will continue to endure the appalling suffering Ebola inflicts on them.
Every donation to CAFOD is having an impact on the frontline of this crisis, and will do for years to come. The individuals, families, parishes and schools across England and Wales who support CAFOD’s work will literally make the difference between life and death for thousands of people over the coming weeks.
Please keep the people affected by the Ebola virus, and those working towards its containment, in your prayers.
Chris Bain, Director CAFOD