International: Ebola response
MAJOR Samuel Amponsah, a Salvation Army officer (minister) from Ghana has been General Secretary (second-in-charge) of the Army’s Liberia Command since September 2013. He spoke to Linda Leigh, a staff writer from the Canada and Bermuda Territory, about The Salvation Army’s ongoing response to the Ebola epidemic in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Linda Leigh: Please describe the situation in Liberia over the past 10 months and today.
Major Samuel Amponsah: The Ebola outbreak took place in March. It was the first of its kind and many people didn’t take precautions. They didn’t think it would last – that it would go away. Therefore, it spread from one country to another. Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have a common border.When Ebola arrived in the cities, the government asked people to minimise movement but by that time people had come with their sickness. Liberia was not prepared. Protective measures had not been put in place and the virus started killing people. In July/August, when The Salvation Army realised that the illness wasn’t going away and was killing people, we contacted International Headquarters (IHQ) and began our response. We gave out sanitisers and chemicals [for cleaning].
Today, locals say that 4,000 people have died in Liberia. We question if all deaths are due to Ebola or natural causes, because people won’t go to clinics out of fear of catching the disease. There are many uncertainties.
The radio news says numbers are decreasing but other sources say Ebola is still killing people and people are still being admitted to clinics.A number of parents have died, leaving their children as orphans and alone in homes. There is no one to care for them and they are very afraid.People live in fear, afraid of contracting the virus. The Salvation Army is going into the hardest-hit communities to distribute food items. The distribution team is careful not to stay too close to the affected community, and people are invited to come and receive the items.