Παρασκευή 15 Αυγούστου 2014

The Worst Part of the Ebola Storm

By Wid Bastian
Special to ASSIST News Service


FREETOWN, SIERRA LEONE (ANS) -- Since the first outbreak in December of 2013, the Ebola crisis in West Africa has grown from a local, to a regional and now an international health crisis.
Father Themi with his flock
While the governments of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea have recently responded with additional resources to combat the problem, as has the United Nations and the international community, the death toll mounts and the disease continues to spread to other nations, such as Nigeria. As of August 14th, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that 1975 cases of Ebola have been reported and 1069 people have died from the disease during the current outbreak. In Sierra Leone, there have been 783 cases of Ebola and 334 fatalities.
Father Themi Adams, a former Australian rock star turned missionary, runs the Holy Orthodox Mission in Freetown, Sierra Leone which consists of a compound for the disabled, known as Waterloo, a primary school and a teacher’s college. The Waterloo compound was constructed to help care for the children of disabled parents.
Themi, the rock star
The mission provides housing for the disabled and their families, water wells for drinking, cleaning, and growing of fruits and vegetables. A medical clinic and a small school for the children of the disabled are also located on the Waterloo compound.
Situated in the heart of Freetown, the St. Syke Primary School was abandoned during the Sierra Leone civil war and left in a dilapidated state. In 2008 the Freetown Council and the Education Department handed the operation of the school over to the Orthodox mission. Since the takeover in 2008, the school has benefited from a massive clean-up. A security fence was built around the school making it safe and secure for its over 2000 students.
The Tower Hill Teacher’s College trains native Sierra Leone primary and secondary school teachers who become instructors in schools around the country after they graduate.
From its inception, Father Themi’s missionary work in Sierra Leone has been extremely challenging, but now the systemic problems of recovering from a devastating civil war, poverty, and ignorance have been magnified by a horrific health crisis.
Since March, Father Themi, who before his dramatic conversion to Christ, once shared the stage with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has been sounding the alarm about the Ebola threat but, unfortunately, his warnings and the alerts of others were not sufficiently heeded. Now, according to multiple international medical authorities, the Ebola outbreak is out of control.
Father Themi today -- a true hero
Interviewed from his residence in Freetown on August 14th, Father Themi said, “This is the worst period of the crisis. I’m hoping that within a few weeks the epidemic will be lessened, but right now we are in the worst part of the storm. Nurses and doctors have run away from the hospitals. There are very few clinics you can go to now and seek any type of medical treatment unless you have a large amount of money.
“Everyone is scared of everybody else. If anyone complains that they have a headache or a fever… boom, they’re finished. They are completely shunned and isolated. As for the rest of us, we are doing our best to control the situation. The government has quarantined effected areas, movement has been restricted. There is a national curfew – after 7pm no one is allowed on the streets.
“Daily life has become very difficult. Everyone has to wear gloves and wash their hands in chlorine water. You’re never sure if the person you’re talking to has the virus but isn’t showing any symptoms yet. The country has ground to a standstill. Crowds are not allowed to gather. It’s like a war situation.”
Crisis: A Médecins Sans Frontières medic treats a suspected Ebola patient in Kailahun, Sierra Leone (Photo: Daily Mail UK)
Father Themi wants people in the West to know that the Ebola crisis has the potential to reach North America and Europe. “While many of the international air carriers have stopped flying to West Africa, there are still flights from Sierra Leone to other African cities. The potential exists for people who have the disease and may not know it yet to fly to London or New York and then become symptomatic. When the symptoms are present, the disease is spread quite easily through routine human contact.”
Ebola is not transmitted by air, but rather through bodily fluids like blood and saliva. The virus is also not transmitted through water or food, but it can remain on objects, such as needles or even clothing, for an extended period of time after the infected person comes in contact with that object. There is no known cure for Ebola (other than experimental drugs such as ZMapp) and no inoculation against the disease. The death rate for those infected with the Ebola virus can be as high as 90%.
“What I am trying to do,” Father Themi says, “is to institute a sound understanding of what we are dealing with without creating too much fear or panic. For example, all of the altar boys have to wear long sleeves, trousers and gloves and wash their hands in chlorine before entering the church. There is a great deal of daily discomfort in addition to the fear of catching the disease.”
Some of Father Themi's kids that he is trying to protect from Ebola
Despite the pleas from many of his friends and supporters urging him to leave Sierra Leone and seek safety in Australia, Father Themi stayed on saying, “Our Lord Jesus has taught that the shepherd of the flock does not run away when danger or an enemy approaches but remains to protect the sheep. The hireling runs away. ‘But he that is a hireling and not the shepherd … seeing the wolf coming leaves the sheep and flees….the hireling flees because he cares not for the sheep. (St. John 10. 12-13). I am not a hireling!
“Consequently since the next 30 to 60 days are the most crucial in this current Ebola crisis my natural place for the next few months, or as long as the emergency period remains, is here in Sierra Leone.”
Father Themi is always in need of resources to support his mission, but particularly so now. Additional money is needed to buy food to feed the residents of Waterloo so they will choose to remain in the compound and not go begging in the streets for money. Begging on the streets of Sierra Leone, once a routine practice, has now become a potentially deadly pursuit.
“We have instituted more stringent security measures on the compound. If residents choose to go into Freetown to beg, they will not be allowed back inside Waterloo. They understand that if they are infected with Ebola they can easily spread the disease to many people in a short period of time. As long as we can feed them, we can keep them here and keep them safe.”
Although the Waterloo compound houses some of the most at risk people in Freetown, to date none of the residents have become infected with Ebola. Father Themi credits this to God’s grace and the efforts of his volunteer staff to take the necessary steps to reduce the chances of infection.
Funds are desperately needed by the Holy Orthodox Mission to purchase food and non-prescription medical supplies (gloves, face masks, chlorine disinfectants, etc.). Anyone wishing to assist Father Themi and the Holy Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone should go to Paradise4kids.com and donate. Every dollar raised helps Father Themi take practical steps to protect people, particularly the less fortunate, from the Ebola threat in Sierra Leone.

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