Church Continues to Provide Aid to Ebola-Stricken West Africa
Contributed By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
- Food and hygiene supplies have been sent to Ebola-stricken countries in Africa.
- Three members have died in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
- All missionaries were evacuated in August and continue to be safe and healthy.
“This is a very challenging situation for the missionaries, members, and citizens of these countries and, like other organizations, we are taking every practical step to reduce risk.” —Church statement during missionary transfers
Even as health officials worldwide battle to contain the Ebola outbreak, the Church is working to ease the suffering of members in West Africa impacted by the virus.
The Church Welfare Department’s humanitarian response arm has shipped food, cleaning supplies, and other emergency provisions to Latter-day Saint families in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The outbreak has claimed the lives of one member in Liberia and two in Sierra Leone, reported humanitarian response director Bruce Muir.
It’s hoped the relief supplies would help sustain the members during mandatory government residential lockdowns that have kept people in their homes for several days.
The Church’s relief supplies have included rice, cooking oil, hygiene supplies, and chlorine to be used to kill remnants of the deadly Ebola virus.
The crisis has exacted a heavy economic toll in Liberia and Sierra Leone, said Brother Muir. Banks have been temporarily closed and businesses have been shuttered until people feel it is safe to be out and about. Members say the Church supplies will help them care for their families during a troubling and frightening moment.
“I am glad for this supply because we were wondering about what to eat during the ‘stay-at-home’ [period],” Sierra Leone member Farissa Fomba told the Deseret News. “But God has blessed us. We are so happy. We appreciate Him and will always continue to worship Him.”
There are about 8,000 members in Liberia and 13,000 in Sierra Leone. Both countries have one mission, and each has been dramatically impacted by the ongoing Ebola outbreak.
In early August the Church transferred all missionaries serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone out of those countries. The elders and sisters, who were all assigned to other missions, are safe and healthy.
Missionary leaders were proactive in caring for the missionaries even prior to the transfer, taking measures to reduce risk of exposure that included keeping the missionaries in their apartments.
“This is a very challenging situation for the missionaries, members, and citizens of these countries and, like other organizations, we are taking every practical step to reduce risk,” noted a Church statement at the time of the missionary transfers.
President Reid A. Robison, who presides over the missionary training center in Ghana, reported that the disease has not affected the MTC in Tema, Ghana. He added that several missionaries who had been assigned to missions in Liberia and Sierra Leone continue to serve faithfully in other West African nations.
President Robison also noted that convert baptisms in Liberia and Sierra Leone have continued even in the absence of full-time missionaries.
Health officials across the globe are working to contain the highly contagious virus. Since its outbreak 10 months ago, the Ebola virus has killed more than 4,500 people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the neighboring nation of Guinea.