Following our recent report on the restrictions which the Ebola Virus was placing on the parish life in parts of Liberia it is with gratitude to God that we are able to give a more positive report in this article on how some progress is being made there as people continue to cope with the ongoing situation.
The international Community is becoming more aware of the serious threat that the Ebola disease is posing to communities and countries. The Médecins Sans Frontiers [MSF] organization has stressed the urgency of bringing the virus under control in Liberia.
Since the eleven cases associated with one family three weeks ago, there has been no wide-spread outbreak of Ebola. There have been some isolated cases but several were linked to contacts with that one extended family. It seems that there was a case involving a sick person being brought into the Town from another County.
In some cases people who are diagnosed as ‘positive’ for the virus flee the area. This has been a problem since the beginning of the outbreak in Guinea earlier this year, because people are very afraid.
On the other hand, a lady who was quarantined in her house is now recovering. And the Army are providing her with food and medicine.
But there is a strict understanding that no one is permitted out of the ‘gate’ until the virus is under control which could take six months according to MSF. Visits to the town for purchases or errands are carried out using the Mission Jeep and not on foot.
Our day begins with 7am Mass and finishes with Evening Prayer at 6.30pm followed by supper.
An incident last week shows how precautions must always be taken. One of our staff noticed a sick young man sitting with his head bowed down between the School and the Mission. His father explained from a distance that they had travelled on the back of a motorcycle from a town some twenty-miles away. The father said that his son had severe pains around the waist after making a large mound of charcoal for commercial use. This is a very arduous exercise, breathing into the lungs so much smoke as the ‘coal-bay’ smoulders; it takes up to one month before the coal is ‘harvested’. We told them that the Clinic was closed and that they should leave the Mission through the gate. Immediately afterwards we drove to where the young man had sat and threw chlorinated all around the area where he rested. The front gate was also treated in the same way…..just in case.
As required the matter was reported at the Police Station. We learnt that they had also attempted to visit another Clinic in the town. The Army at the Klay Checkpoint confirmed that a person answering our description was turned back because he was sick. They are now using a remote control thermometer to prevent sick people from proceeding to Monrovia.
The shortage of food is a serious problem for the people. In the rural areas this is not unusual before harvest time. But in our town it is also due to the difficulties involved in transporting goods at this time from Monrovia through the Checkpoint and even the suspension of Market Days in the County.
I received a sad letter last Saturday from one of our students who is now living in the town, “The Ebola outbreak is doing a lot to me… to really tell you the truth I am starving right now… please help me to buy food… in order to keep me alive during this difficult period of time, because even if I go in the interior I will have nothing to do there because only by hunting we can get money and right now bush meat is not allowed.”
So it’s a difficult situation for everyone. And as the Army Commander insists: “just one little mistake and that’s a serious problem.”
But to conclude on a much happier note:
Despite torrential rain, parishioners came last Sunday for Mass in good numbers. The participation at Mass was exceptional – both the singing and the prayer – the people are really praying from their hearts, to be protected from this dreadful virus and asking the Lord to defeat it. At the end of the Homily, I continued to encourage the people to follow strictly the ‘protocol’ from the Ministry of Health and WHO, concerning hygiene and human contact.
More good news is that our prayers have been answered today with the reopening of the Government Hospital in Bomi, for normal OutPatients care. For the past several weeks, the only facility open was an isolation unit for suspected Ebola cases. It will take a lot of worry from people’s minds that the hospital is now ready to treat common sicknesses such as Malaria and Typhoid Fever.
So please continue to pray for us. For ‘we are just looking up to God’ as the people say here.