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Disinfection against Ebola

For several months, the media tells us about the many deaths caused by the Ebola virus in West Africa and Central Africa. Liberia, where the SMA is installed since 1906, has been particularly affected by the virus. Today, SMA confreres from England, the Republic of Benin, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Togo and Liberia are working there.

It appears very difficult to control the spread of this virus, which has already claimed thousands of lives. Affected individuals have 10 to 15% chance of survival if they receive good medical care. But if they remain at home, the death rate is around 90%. The poverty of medical facilities is a real aggravating factor in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. At Monrovia, many hospitals are unable to function normally.

 After the State of Emergency declared by the President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the free movement of vehicles was restricted in the country and some areas have been quarantined. At Bomi even some houses were quarantined by the military, so that no one can enter or leave. The checkpoint Klay is closed to all commercial traffic to stop the virus that is spreading faster than we had anticipated. 

 

Here is the testimony of Father Gary SMA, a pastor who served  42 years Liberia

The 'tension ' is the most challenging thing to live with. You will often hear people say that it is worse than the long war years, because the 'enemy' is unseen. 

 Here in Bomi many people are afraid to visit the Government General Hospital after those confirmed cases. The Amadiya Clinic is closed. Furthermore, we closed our own small clinic on 29 July in order to protect our staff and indeed ourselves because the clinic is close to the Church and Rectory; besides Jane and Moses who have been with us since the War, are neither trained or equipped to meet a possible suspected Ebola case.

So far, thank God, none of us on the Mission have been unwell with even the usual sicknesses which we expect such as Malaria or Typhoid Fever.”

“However, on the Pastoral side, we have taken what may be considered drastic precautions for now, in order to protect ourselves and others.

  • - We have suspended village visitation.
  • - Outside the entrance of St Dominic's Parish Church there is always a container of chlorinated water for hand-washing before people receive Communion.
  • - The 'Sign of Peace' has been suspended – in fact, there is no hand-shaking in the community at large in the country.
  • - We, when we celebrate Mass, sanitize our hands before distributing Holy Communion.
  • - And very reluctantly, we are suspending communion for the sick in their homes and the anointing of the sick.
  • - And another important part of our Pastoral Ministry has been curtailed while the virus is a threat to everyone – officiating at the grave-side.

So it's a very difficult 'scenario'. We can only bear witness in our ministry by prayer and love rather than 'action'.

For three days eighteen women parishioners have been coming for Mass at 7am. After a short break, they return to the Church singing and praying until 6pm. They fast during these hours of prayer and break their fast together outside the Church before going home in the evening. “We closed the three days of prayers with Mass, today, on the Feast of St Dominic, our Patron Saint.”

One simple incident shows how precautions must always be taken. One of the parishioners noticed a sick young man sitting 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.