by Pam Bohlander
Member, First United Methodist Church of Marietta
The United Methodist Church and its partners are responding to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The deadly virus has claimed lives in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria.
The church effort involves treatment, prevention, communication and public education. The response is a joint effort by West African United Methodist church leaders and regional health boards, denominational health facilities, missionaries and the denomination’s general agencies.
UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, has been present with the people of West Africa since the beginning of the Ebola epidemic this spring. They operate hospitals and clinics in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Funds are supporting tents and construction of isolation units, personal protective equipment, training for health staff, public messaging about Ebola, and safe handling of deceased bodies. In addition to sending supplies and protective equipment UMCOR is increasing support to existing healthcare facilities to keep their doors open with increased grant money and funding new projects. As of August 28, UMCOR has sent $383,000 grants to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The existing healthcare networks are actively educating people on prevention and treatment.
The health and safety of doctors and nurses is one of UMCOR’s priorities. United Methodist missionaries in West Africa have been given the opportunity to leave the country but many, especially the medical missionaries, have elected to stay. They know the risk but are called to serve.
West Africa is densely populated and the disease is spreading very rapidly. The cultural practices of the people and lack of education elevate the risk of transmission. They care for the sick at home, even hiding sick family members, and prepare the bodies for burial or hide the bodies. Some are very distrustful of health facilities. Some health facilities have been closed which means those needing care for other illness or pregnancy are without care.
United Methodist Communications has a dedicated page for The United Methodist Church’s response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. Find out more here.
We are Methodists. We respond to people throughout the world who suffer. Let our first response be with prayer. Let us pray for the people of West Africa who live under fear of this disease, the families of those who have died, and the missionaries and health care workers there as well as throughout the world. Second, let us give generously so that UMCOR can continue to partner with the United Methodist Health Boards and other organizations working to respond to this disaster through UMCOR’s International Disaster Response Advance #982450. Donations can be made online www.umcor.org, by phone at 800-554-8583, by mail UMCOR Disaster Relief, P. O. Box 9068, New York, NY or Marietta First United Methodist Church will accept checks for the Disaster Response Advance and forward them to UMCOR.