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AFRICAN NEWS & INFORMATION
Liberians Fill Churches In Defiance Of Government's Ebola Warnings, No Public Gatherins Tags: NEws Liberia Ebola Health

Liberians packed churches in the capital Monrovia on Sunday to seek solace from an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, defying official warnings to avoid public gatherings to try to contain an epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa.

With its creaking healthcare system completely overrun, Liberia declared a state of emergency last week to tackle the highly contagious and incurable disease, which has also stricken neighbouring Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.

People still flocked to sing and pray in churches in the ramshackle ocean-front capital, many of them comparing Ebola to the brutal civil war that ravaged the country between 1989 and 2003, killing nearly a quarter of a million people.

"Everyone is so afraid," said Martee Jones Seator at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church. "Ebola is not going to shake our faith in any way ... because we've been through difficult times."

The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world's worst outbreak of Ebola will likely continue for months, as the region's healthcare systems struggle to cope, and it has appealed for funding and emergency medical staff.

With the disease now in four African countries - following the death in Nigeria last month of a U.S. citizen who arrived from Liberia - the WHO on Friday classified the epidemic as an international health emergency.

A WHO medical ethics committee is due to discuss next week the use of experimental drugs in tackling the outbreak after two U.S. aid workers appeared to show some improvement after being treated with ZMapp, a drug developed by California-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical.

British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said on Sunday a clinical trial of another experimental vaccine was due to start shortly. But even if it is fast-tracked, the new treatment would not be ready for deployment before next year.

Spain on Sunday authorised the use of the ZMapp on 75-year-old Spanish priest Miguel Pajares - the first European infected - who was evacuated to Madrid last week after contracting the virus working in a hospital in Liberia. A Congolese nun who worked with him died on Saturday in Monrovia.

Outside churches in the capital, plastic buckets with taps containing chlorinated water sat on stools, allowing worshippers to disinfect their hands. Inside, pastors told their congregations to follow instructions from health workers, some of whom have been attacked by locals terrified by the disease.

"We are in trouble here. We are in trouble," Reverend Marcus MacKay, dressed in a green gown, said before the altar. "But you know what? There is no way this devil is going to do its work!"

STARTED IN FORESTS OF GUINEA

Scientists believe that West Africa's first Ebola epidemic began in early December near Gueckedou in the remote forest region of southeastern Guinea, near the border with Liberia and Sierra Leone. Yet it is not clear how the virus jumped from central Africa, where it is regarded as endemic.

National emergencies have since been declared in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, which now has seven confirmed cases of Ebola. Guinea said on Saturday it was tightening health checks at border crossings.

With healthcare workers unprepared to cope with the virus - which initially presents symptoms similar to malaria - many have died, exacerbating chronic staffing problems. Liberia alone has lost at least three doctors to the virus and 32 health workers.

The coordinator of Medecins Sans Frontieres in Liberia, Lindis Hurum, has called the situation in the country "catastrophic". President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Saturday pledged up to $18 million to help protect workers, fund more ambulances and to increase the number of treatment centres.

Burkina Faso became the latest African country on Sunday to announce stringent airport health checks and border controls to protect itself from infection. Zambia said on Saturday it would ban its citizens from travelling to countries hit by the virus.

In Senegal, which borders Guinea to the north, a man had been isolated in the northern region of Matam while tests were conducted for Ebola, the APS state news agency reported.

Tests on suspected cases in Hong Kong, Canada and Saudi Arabia in recent days have all proved negative.

Source: Reuters

Liberia Water, Sewer Company Says About Half Its Users Don’t Pay Tags: News Liberia West Africa

The Liberia Water and Sewer Corp. said almost half of its 11,000 users are connected illegally and not paying for its services, depriving the company of revenue needed for rehabilitation projects.

The utility is facing challenges that include trying to meet growing demand for clean water supplies with a system of underground pipes that are rusting, LWSC Managing Director Charles Allen told reporters today in the capital, Monrovia.

Source: Business Week

Sierra Leone's Ebola Ghost Town, A Village Frozen By Fear And Death (VIDEO) Tags: Sierra Leone News Health Ebola West Africa

NJALA NGIEMA, Sierra Leone — The signs of a deadly struggle remain: Scattered around the houses of the Ebola dead lie empty pill packages, their plastic casings punched through. Nearby in the mud are used packets of oral rehydration salts. The pills did not work, and the hurried trip to the hospital, if there was one, came too late.

Inside house after house, Ebola has claimed its victims: Here, 10 people died; over there, four, including three children. A few yards away, an old man lives alone, his wife now dead. In another, seven people are dead, the village teacher said. In a long low house nearby, 16 died, all from the same family. Outside yet another, two tiny girls, one age 6 and her sister, 7, sit pensively in front, their parents gone.

And there are more. “So many,” said Sheku Jaya, the 35-year-old village teacher, clutching his little daughter’s hand. “We lost too many people.”

Here in the nation most afflicted by Ebola, in the hardest-hit part of the country, this may well be the most devastated village, local and international officials say. Some 61 people have died here, out of a population of perhaps 500. Njala Ngiema, a mud-brick community of rice and cassava farmers deep in the forest, is quiet now.

“We wanted to abandon this village,” Mr. Jaya said.

There are still people here, but the village appears frozen. Inside the darkened houses, the scant belongings of the victims — ragged clothing, sandals, a rare radio — sit untouched weeks later. No new cases have surfaced here in nearly a month, but fear that the deadly virus still lurks has kept everything in place. Nothing appears to have moved since the deadly tide swept through.

VIDEO

The Sierra Leone government, desperate to contain an epidemic that has claimed about 300 lives in this nation alone, has effectively cordoned off this part of the country, deploying troops and setting up roadblocks in the hardest-hit areas. Two districts here in the east — an area with about one million people — were put under quarantine by the government late last week, shutting down much of the traffic on the muddy road cutting through the Ebola zone.

Now, a region roughly the size of Jamaica has been cut off from the rest of the country because of the roadblocks, warned a local leader, David Keili-Coomber, the paramount chief — raising worries that if the epidemic does not decimate the region, a subsequent shortage of food, trade and supplies will.

“Our fear now is that closing these roads risks having more people die of malnutrition and even starvation than by Ebola,” Mr. Keili-Coomber said in an email message.

The sweeping quarantine, much like the one imposed on parts of Liberia across the border, underscores a basic reality in the battle against the epidemic: Neither the government nor the international health organizations on the front lines seem able to stop it from spreading. So many villages have been struck, with so few health workers and other resources to try to halt the advance, that governments have resorted to closing off entire regions in hopes of containing the damage.

“Every week, we get one or two new villages with infections,” said Anja Wolz, the Doctors Without Borders physician who was running the organization’s treatment center outside the town of Kailahun last week. “It is a disaster.”

The government quarantine comes too late for Njala Ngiema, where the scourge’s mark is everywhere along the wide muddy road that runs through the palm-fringed village. In front of a house where five people died hangs a pair of blue trousers, untouched since Ebola passed through. Inside a house where two elderly women lived, a plastic bag labeled “See the World,” packed with clothes, sits on a bed for a trip to the hospital that never happened. Towels, trousers and underclothes still hang from the rafters in another house where Foday Joko lived with his wife and daughter. All three died.

At the back of Alhaji Abbah’s house, where 16 people died, the stained and torn farming clothes he wore — bluejeans and T-shirts — still hang from a line. Nobody has dared to remove them.

“People are afraid; we asked them to burn them,” said James Baion, a teacher from the area who is helping to organize an Ebola response on behalf of local officials.

The sheet on Mr. Abbah’s bed is still rumpled and the pillow still askew. Poking out from the simple wood bed frame are his sandals. “He refused to go to the hospital,” Mr. Baion said. “He was afraid to go.” After Mr. Abbah died, he was found in a sitting position at the edge of his bed, hunched over, his head bowed.

So many of the farmers have died that the residents said this year’s planting season was not likely to occur.

How Ebola Spread
A report in The New England Journal of Medicine traces the spread of the recent Ebola outbreak from Guéckédou, Guinea, to towns nearby.

“This farming season, we can’t do any work,” said Mr. Jaya, the teacher. “We have lost too many people.”

Villages all around here have been routed, and life has ground to a halt. Schools are closed, soccer matches have been called off, and food prices have shot up. In Bonbom, 24 are dead, along with 12 in Bendima, and 61 in Daru, a town of about 6,000 up the road from here, said the paramount chief in Daru, Musa Ngombu-kla Kallon II, ticking off the towns where his subjects have died.

“Some villages are deserted,” the chief said. In Sierra Leone, the paramount chief, a powerful semi-elected position, upholds customary laws and collects some taxes. “People got scared,” he said. “They ran away.”

Mr. Kallon himself lost his wife and daughter. His wife, taking care of the initial case in the town, an infected nurse, told her husband: “Don’t worry. Keep cool.” At the nurse’s burial, everybody wanted to “touch in abundance” the corpse, Mr. Kallon said, even dressing the deceased’s hair. Infected corpses are highly infectious, presenting a common risk of infection.

Even at the Doctors Without Borders treatment center outside Kailahun, the doctors say they are not keeping pace with the epidemic, despite a staff of over 300, 10 tents, more than 2,000 protective suits and a mathematically precise layout to reduce the risk of infection.

“I think we are two steps behind,” Dr. Wolz said.

“We are still discovering villages,” she said, where Ebola victims are dying at home, rather than in isolation, risking new infections. There have been up to 140 new cases at the treatment center over the last three weeks, she said.

The standard protocols for containing the disease — isolating each patient, tracking the people he or she came in contact with, and monitoring all of those people for weeks to see if they develop any symptoms — seem an almost insurmountable task across the four West African nations that have reported about 1,800 cases so far: Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia and Nigeria.

International officials have said there were at least 500 contacts to trace just from the city in Guinea where the outbreak was first identified in March, and the World Health Organization says it will need to send hundreds of additional health workers to the region to try to contain the epidemic.

At the Doctors Without Borders center, a medical assistant flipped cans of sardines to grateful Ebola patients behind a barrier, several of whom were eager to demonstrate their healthiness. But one patient, struggling to his feet, held his head in his hands. “Hurting, hurting, hurting,” said Mamou Samba, a 43-year-old mason, groaning and demanding painkillers.

Behind the tents, the morgue is full. A body arrived — a young man, his arm hanging limply from the stretcher, who appeared to have been in his prime. Most of the patients are breadwinners for their families, as one staff member put it. A team of five in full protective gear disinfected the corpse with a potent chlorine spray solution. Behind the morgue rose smoke from the latest incineration of protective gear, which is discarded after a single use.

Dr. Wolz said the outbreak would not end this year. “Everybody sends experts,” she said. “They sit in offices and go to meetings. We need people to go into the field.”

Source: NYtimes

How Did Ebola Begins In Liberia? Tracing The Breakout Tags: News Liberia Health West Africa Ebola

Patient Zero in the Ebola outbreak, researchers suspect, was a 2-year-old boy who died on Dec. 6, just a few days after falling ill in a village in Guéckédou, in southeastern Guinea. Bordering Sierra Leone and Liberia, Guéckédou is at the intersection of three nations, where the disease found an easy entry point to the region.

A week later, it killed the boy’s mother, then his 3-year-old sister, then his grandmother. All had fever, vomiting and diarrhea, but no one knew what had sickened them.

By the time Ebola was recognized, in March, dozens of people had died in eight Guinean communities, and suspected cases were popping up in Liberia and Sierra Leone — three of the world’s poorest countries, recovering from years of political dysfunction and civil war.

Roaring Back in Liberia

Dr. Fazlul Haque, deputy representative of Unicef in Liberia, said that after a few cases there in March and April, health workers thought the disease had gone away. But it came roaring back about a month later.

“It reappeared, and this time, it came in a very big way,” he said. “The rate of increase is very high now.”

From July 30 to Aug. 6, Liberia’s government reported more than 170 new cases and over 90 deaths.

“Currently, our efforts are not enough to stop the virus,” Dr. Haque said.

He added that most health agencies believed the true case numbers to be far higher, in part because locals were not coming forward when relatives fell ill, and because detection by the health authorities has been weak. Rukshan Ratnam, a spokesman for Unicef in Liberia, said some families had hidden their sick to avoid sending them to isolation wards, or out of shame stemming from traditional beliefs that illness is a punishment for doing something wrong.

Dr. Haque said that the tracing of cases, crucial for the containment of the disease, was moving too slowly to keep up with new infections. Seven counties have confirmed cases, and the government has deployed security forces in Lofa County, where Liberia’s first case was detected, he said. But the government has given leave to nonessential employees in those areas, so it is not clear how they will have the staffing to isolate the sick. Some hospitals have closed because so many health workers have fallen ill.

Liberia has closed markets and many border crossings. It has said testing and screening will be done at immigration checkpoints.

But on Thursday, at a checkpoint staffed by at least 30 soldiers in Klay, Bomi County, there was no screening — just a blockade and a line of trucks loaded with bags of charcoal, plantains and potato greens.

Hilary Wesseh, a truck driver who was sucking the last drops of juice out of a small lime, said he had been stuck there for two days.

“They are holding us hostage,” he said.

Souce: NYtimes

Mary’s Meals, In Liberia, offers prayers as the Ebola crisis worsens in West Africa Tags: Liberia News Ebola Health West Africa Mary’s Meals

The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has now killed more than 930 people across Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and has today been declared an international health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

At this time when many others are at risk of infection – and with stringent preventative measures and movement restrictions in place across the region – all at Mary’s Meals offer their heartfelt thoughts and prayers to those affected.

In Liberia, where Mary’s Meals provides a nutritious meal to 128,910 impoverished children every school day, there have been 282 confirmed deaths and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has declared a 90-day state of emergency.

With schools in the country currently out of session for the summer holidays, the operation of the Mary’s Meals school feeding programme has not yet been directly affected. However, the new term is just three weeks away, due to begin on September 1st.

The extraordinary measures ordered by the Liberian government, as it works to contain the spread of the virus, mean that schools will remain closed in the country until further notice. Regrettably, therefore, it now looks increasingly likely that the feeding programme will not be able to recommence next month as planned.

With this highly probable outcome in mind, Mary’s Meals is now considering other ways in which the charity might utilise its resources in Liberia to support the communities we work in at this difficult time, and we will inform our supporters of any such activity in due course.

As a member of the Liberian International Non-Governmental Organisations’ forum (LINGO), Mary’s Meals is also liaising with other aid agencies working in the country, and is in regular contact with the British Embassy and, of course, the Liberian authorities.

Mary’s Meals’ head office in Liberia is located in the city of Tubmanburg, Bomi County – one of the areas where Ebola is prevalent. Both Bomi and Grand Cape Mount counties have now been cut off from the capital Monrovia by military blockade.

At this time, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and take the necessary precautions to protect our people on the ground. Staff at Mary’s Meals headquarters in Scotland are, as always, in close contact with our Liberian team, based in Tubmanburg.

Source: marysmeals

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