Malaria and Ebola
In the past several weeks, an outbreak of one of the world's most virulent diseases has made news all over the world. Several West African nations are struggling with Ebola outbreaks of unprecedented severity. People are dying at an alarming rate.
Liberia is one country that has been particularly hard-hit with Ebola cases, and where the ELCA Malaria Campaign is also supporting the malaria program run by our companions, the Lutheran Church in Liberia. In Liberia, malaria prevention and control efforts have been deeply impacted by the Ebola crisis.
Photo: Unfortunately, the work of the Lutheran malaria program in Liberia is hindered by the Ebola crisis.
Medical systems, taxed by the sheer number of Ebola cases and the extensive precautions they must take in treating patients, have fewer resources left over to attend to cases of malaria and other diseases. Some health facility employees aren't reporting to work for fear of becoming infected themselves.
Their fear is well-founded. According to this article published by the World Health Organization today, the current Ebola outbreak is taking a heavy toll on health care workers. More than 240 health care workers in West Africa have been infected with Ebola, and more than 120 of those have died. "In many cases," the article reports, "medical staff are at risk because no protective equipment is available – not even gloves and face masks. Even in dedicated Ebola wards, personal protective equipment is often scarce or not being properly used."
This is one way that Lutherans in the ELCA are responding. Lutheran Disaster Response is partnering with Global Health Ministries and the Lutheran Church in Liberia to supply and ship by air essential protective gear and supplies to protect medical workers at Phebe Hospital and Curran Lutheran Hospital in Liberia. You can read more about this project on the Lutheran Disaster Response blog here and here. Plans for an additional response in Liberia through our partnership with ACT Alliance are also underway.
Photo: Through Lutheran Disaster Response, Curran Lutheran Hospital in Liberia will receive a shipment of personal protective equipment to help in the fight against Ebola.
The health care sector is not alone in experiencing backlash from Ebola. As this blog post from NPR reports, hunger and food insecurity are becoming increasingly problematic in the wake of the health crisis. "Bush meat"—meat from forest animals –can spread Ebola and is thus no longer a viable food source. In quarantined areas, many food markets have shut down completely. Farmers are discouraged from tending to their fields in groups, and yield will be greatly reduced. Food prices are already rising and food shortages have begun. Malaria and Ebola are both diseases that perpetuate the cycle of poverty and hunger.
Through ELCA World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster response and the ELCA Malaria Campaign, we walk together with our Lutheran companions all over the world as they respond to hunger, disaster and disease with compassion and action. Thank you for your support of these ministries!
Photo: with your support, the ELCA will continue to accompany our companions in Liberia in their health care ministries.
For more information about Ebola and our church's response, click on these links:
- Lutheran Disaster Response
- Ebola fact sheet from World Health Organization
- NPR: "Why Ebola is making it harder to provide good health care"
- WHO: Unprecedented number of medical staff infected with Ebola