Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone has two Morristown volunteers watching, waiting

World Health Organization video about Ebola outbreak in Guinea.

 

By Marie Pfeifer

As the death toll from the Ebola virus rises in West Africa, two Morristown volunteers are concerned about the effect the crisis will have on their relief efforts in Sierra Leone.

The World Health Organization last week reported   964 suspected probable and confirmed cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, up about 14 percent from a week earlier.

Health workers load body into vehicle in Guinea, where an Ebola outbreak is spreading. Image: World Health Organization.

Health workers load body into vehicle in Guinea, where an Ebola outbreak is spreading. Image: World Health Organization.

More than 600 people have died; roughly 100 of the victims are from Sierra Leone.

“The Holy Spirit Hospital in Makeni has put a hold on bringing in teams of surgeons because of the outbreak,” said Tom Johnson, founder of Africa Surgery, a nonprofit that funds spinal operations and other much-needed surgeries.

Sierra Leonean candidates for surgery usually are sent to a FOCOS Hospital in Ghana; now they must be quarantined for 30 days before they are flown there.

Alan Chorun, former pastoral associate at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown, raises money to build housing in Bo, a city in southern Sierra Leone.  People there are putting themselves at risk, he said.

Morristown missionary Alan Chorun with children in Sierra Leone, West Africa. Photo courtesy of Alan Chorun.

Morristown missionary Alan Chorun with children in Sierra Leone, West Africa, in spring 2014. Photo courtesy of Alan Chorun.

“The people are not taking it seriously.  They say it is a political plot from the party in power.  To complicate the situation, they don’t believe in taking preventative health measures,” Chorun said.

Chorun would like to see a massive education program.  Right now, there is no money for that.

“We need about $5,000 to purchase enough disinfectant and buckets to take care of seven or eight villages.  I would like to use the Health Center there to hold seminars to educate the villagers,” he said.

The Methodist Church has issued a statement to its American partners that it does not want them coming to Sierra Leone until further notice.

Morristown resident Tom Johnson, pictured last year on a charity mission to Sierra Leone. Photo by Sergio Burani.

Morristown resident Tom Johnson, pictured last year on a charity mission to Sierra Leone. Photo by Sergio Burani.

Compounding the grim news was a report this week that Sierra Leone’s top Ebola doctor–a national hero–has contracted the highly contagious hemorrhagic virus.

There is no cure or vaccine for Ebola, which can kill up to 90 percent of its victims. It causes vomiting, diarrhea and internal and external bleeding.

–Kevin Coughlin contributed to this report.

CNN special report on the world’s worst Ebola outbreak.

 

 



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