ebola Liberia health worker with santizing station

Meridian Magazine is partnering with Reach the Children, a foundation staffed by Latter-day Saints in Liberia, to help on the frontlines of this war against Ebola. We asked our readers last week if you wanted to help, and so many of you came through. At this point we are very close to raising the amount that is needed in this immediate critical need. Remember: this money goes directly to Liberia to fund this effort. It’s not too late to help. Please read this update and consider why you should.

Nobody wants to get near Ebola for they know that infection is likely a death sentence. Redemption Hospital in Liberia’s capital city is nearly empty. NPR reports that the rumor has spread that the government has invented ebola to get funds from international donors and secretly kills patients and then claims they died of the disease.

In Sierra Leone supervising nurse Josephine Finda Sellu knows better. This disease is not imaginary. She lost 15 of her staff in rapid succession, but slogs on in a frightening job to keep busy in the face of despair. This devastating outbreak has killed doctors, scared away medical staff and forced some hospitals to close.

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The New York Times notes, “In the campaign against the Ebola virus, which is sweeping across parts of West Africa in an epideic worse than all previous outbreaks of the disease combined, the front line is stitched together by people like Ms. Sellu: doctors and nurses who give their lives to treat patients who will probably die; janitors who clean up lethal pools of vomit and waste so that beleaguered health centers can stay open; drivers who venture into villages overcome by illness to retrieve patients; body hadlers charged with the dangerous task of keeping highly infectious corpses from sickening others.”  

This kind of danger is an apt description of what the Latter-day Saint staff of Reach the Children Liberia is facing as they labor in Liberia to educate the people about how to stop the relentless march of the deadly disease. Currently RTC Liberia has been assigned to teach over 2,400 households about the killing effects of Ebola virus and how to effectively avoid contracting the disease themselves. This is critical because families hide members who contract Ebola, fearing their loved one will be taken away and never seen again.

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The emphasis for RTC is on hygiene and sanitation and teaching the people to see the absolute necessity of disinfecting their homes and monitoring their contact and exposure to the dangerous virus.

This effort will require personal visits to over 300 households in each of eight Clan areas over terrible terrain where few roads even exist. Because of the government restrictions, there is no place to lodge while the staff are traveling the district except in the car. This necessitates going back home every few days to renew food supplies and gather more materials and equipment to pass out as needed by the people.

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While also taking care of several orphan children, RTC Liberia has given 17 sanitizing “stations” to health workers and community centers with many more to come. The complete unit, with bucket, soaps, chlorine bleach, etc. costs around $50 due to the massive inflation that has overrun the country since this crisis began. Prices have gone up a 100% on many, much needed, items for sanitation purposes.

They leave instruction manuals in households with what to us is the most basic information and to them knowledge that could be life-saving. The manual includes ways to clean contaminated water, make disinfectant soap for washing clothes and bodies and instructions for constructing very inexpensive hand-washing stations from a two liter soda bottle. It also teaches about germs and how they can harm us.

Here’s a sample from the manual:

Here are some reasons why people don’t wash when they should and how you can overcome each problem:

I DON’T KNOW THE BEST WAY TO WASH MY HANDS.

The best way to wash your hands is by SCRUBBING your hands with soap under FLOWING water for 30 SECONDS. If you don’t have access to a clean towel to dry your hands, just let them air dry.

I DON’T KNOW WHEN TO WASH MY HANDS.

You should wash your hands before eating or preparing food, after passing urine or stool, and before and after caring for a baby or someone who is sick.

WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT TO HAVE CLEAN HANDS?

Your hands touch the world and all its germs and then introduce those germs into your body.

I DON’T OWN SOAP OR HAVE ACCESS TO FLOWING WATER, WHAT SHOULD I DO?

If no soap is available you can use sand, soil or ashes as a replacement. You can also make soap!

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A Danger for the RTC Staff

Mary Harris of Reach the Children noted, “For now our workers are not being asked to go into an area where the disease has been discovered, nevertheless, the danger to them, especially in outlying villages and clans is real. As infected people from neighboring counties and countries run from the fear of this disease and spread the disease wherever they go, the possible danger to all residents and especially our workers is real and frightening.  

“There is so much stigma, mistrust of government and misinformation associated with this disease that many local people are spreading the disease without knowing that they are putting so many other lives, including their loved ones, in danger.”

It is reported that those who have volunteered to collect and bury the dead are then shunned by their family members who don’t want them back with any possibility they carry Ebola.

Harris said, “When one hears things like this, their first thought might  be to turn their anger towards family members who shun loved ones because of the work they are doing among the dying and dead, but let’s be realistic. Considering the horrific threat that ANY contact with a body fluid from an infected person can KILL you, is it a wonder that fear grips the hearts of family and friends of those who work with the infected every day? These are among the concerns of our RTC associates.”

Still, they feed orphans, travel long distances to visit homes, sleep in cars, expose themselves to danger, give away sanitation systems and teach people in hopes they can save lives and their nation.


All you have to do to donate is click here. It is the easiest way to do some real good today. All proceeds go directly to the workers’ needs in Liberia.