The deadliest outbreak of the Ebola virus in recorded history is gripping West Africa. CAFOD partners are working with affected communities.
The worst affected countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The outbreak is rapidly spreading, and has killed nearly 4,000 people across the three countries. Unless it is brought under control, the virus threatens to infect thousands more people in the coming weeks, and spread more widely across the region.
CAFOD’s partners are urgently scaling up their response to the crisis, and aim to reach two million people over the coming weeks. We are hoping to meet their need for £1.3m to do this. Their work includes:
Raising awareness: Many communities do not have access to accurate information on Ebola, or hygiene facilities to protect themselves. Our partners are working with priests and imams to spread the word about hand-washing and safe sanitation, and to distribute hygiene kits. Religious leaders are in a unique position to dispel myths and ensure that communities take the right action to prevent the spread of the disease.
Providing safe burials: Ebola can spread through contact with the bodies of people who have died from the disease, so our partners are training priests and communities to carry out safe burials. They are also providing care and emotional support to families who have lost loved ones.
Supplying food: As the spread of Ebola widens, the day to day task of buying or stocking food is becoming more challenging. Farmers have been unable to work together to harvest their crops, prices have risen, and food is becoming scarce in districts that have been quarantined. We plan to work in Sierra Leone and Liberia to make sure vulnerable families have enough food.
Many of CAFOD’s local partners are based in the affected communities. They are known and trusted by community members. During the Ebola outbreak, quarantine restrictions have placed further constraints on communities wanting to get to market to buy or sell produce.
CAFOD partners delivering aid have permission to cross quarantine zones to support affected communities, and will be following strict guidelines on how best to deliver aid or prevention information that minimises exposure to risk of infection.
CAFOD partner Monsignor Robert Vitillio, has recently returned from Liberia. He said:
“The health care infrastructure in Liberia has been weak for many years and the Ebola epidemic has brought it to its knees. Many hospitals and clinics are closed. Some people die in the streets looking for medical treatment for the Ebola infection. There is still much fear and denial among people, and public awareness raising is our first line of defence.
This is where the Caritas and other church-based networks are playing a unique and essential role. With support from UK aid agencies such as CAFOD, we have been able to galvanise the expertise of many of the Caritas members to reach communities in remote rural or urban slum areas where health professionals or other aid agencies may not be able to go.”