LWF Expresses Deep Appreciation of Efforts by Churches, Medical Staff to Fight Ebola in West Africa

Increased efforts are needed to prevent the spread of this biggest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. © EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser CC-SA
Increased efforts are needed to prevent the spread of this biggest Ebola outbreak ever recorded. © EC/ECHO/Jean-Louis Mosser CC-SA

More than 800 Deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone

(LWI) - In a letter addressed to member churches in West Africa, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Martin Junge has expressed his deep appreciation for the “sacrificial commitment” of medical staff, church communities and volunteers working to contain the spread of Ebola in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.

“It is with deep pain that we follow the daily news on the catastrophic Ebola epidemic that has touched several countries in West Africa, especially, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Our compassion is with the many families and individuals that have been affected, also in our member churches. We are touched by the sacrificial commitment of medical staff to care for the sick and save their lives,” Junge said.

“And we are mourning with the families and church communities over the loss of beloved family members, friends and neighbors. Especially, our sympathy is with the families of the 3 nurses at Phebe Hospital in Liberia and other medical staff who lost their lives in this battle.”

The disease, which erupted in the forested villages of southeastern Guinea and was diagnosed in March as Ebola, is West Africa's first outbreak, and the worst known to date globally with 1,663 reported cases and 887 deaths, according to figures released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday. Infections continue to spread in Guinea and neighboring Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The three countries announced over the weekend extra measures to combat the outbreak, including calling in the army to enforce quarantines in several villages. The new measures will focus on the “cross-border regions that have more than 70 % (of the cases) of the epidemic,” they said. Liberia and Sierra Leone have declared states of emergency.

Together with its partners in the ACT Alliance, the LWF has promoted public awareness campaigns in Liberia and provided supportive care for those infected by Ebola. The Lutheran Curran and Phebe Hospitals in Bong and Lofa counties are among those treating patients with the disease. Up to 468 cases have been reported in Liberia, with 117 confirmed deaths. The West Africa outbreak is highly unusual as the virus is typically found only in central or eastern Africa.

“In these days, we would also want to express our deep thankfulness to the numerous helpers, medical staff and researchers who, day and night, struggle for people’s healing,’’ Junge said. “We think in thankfulness of the many volunteers, neighbors and members of church communities, and pastors, who remain at the sides of those who need comfort and support, or a meal and a warm place. God be with them all, encourage and empower them for their service to their afflicted neighbor.”

Through the Lutheran Development Service (LDS), the Lutheran Church in Liberia and ACT Alliance, the LWF is seeking additional funds to expand life-saving public awareness and prevention programs in Montserrado County, and in Bong, Lofa, Gbarnpolu and Grand Cape Mount counties along the Guinean and Sierra Leonean borders. The LWF also plans to acquire an isolation center for the Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing Compound.