The West African Ebola outbreak that started in December 2013 is so far the largest and deadliest recorded in history. The confirmed and suspected cases as of 20 August 2014 were 2,615 with 844 EVD (Ebola Virus Disease) confirmed deaths.
On 17 September, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan said there were at least 5,357 reported cases, including 2,630 deaths, in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, and Senegal.
As of 25 October 2014, the Ebola virus has affected eight countries—the five listed above as well as Spain, the USA, and Mali. The numbers of reported cases and deaths have almost doubled in the past month, to 10,141 cases and 4,922 deaths.
‘None of us experienced in containing outbreaks has ever seen, in our lifetimes, an emergency on this scale’, Chan said. She has previously said the numbers are an underestimate, as there are many unreported cases. On 16 September, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called the outbreak the world’s first Ebola epidemic. Unfortunately, there are no licensed treatments available for EVD, and severely ill patients can only be cared for with intensive supportive care.
Most fatalities (4,912 out of 4,922) have occurred in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Cases have also been reported in Nigeria, Senegal, DR Congo (of a separate origin), Spain, the USA, and Mali.
In our very own family
Rev Gideon Para-Mallam, former Lausanne EPSA International Deputy Director, in a 23 September 2014 prayer update, pleaded, ‘I don’t often write on the same topic within a short time, but the continued crisis in west Africa with the Ebola virus has moved me to ask you again to pray fervently for the situation.’
He quoted Matthew Brima, a Cape Town 2010 participant and General Secretary of IFES in Sierra Leone (SLEFES), who wrote on 20 September, ‘A very sad week for me. This week, I lost four very close ones to the Ebola virus. First, it was my own cousin, a nurse. Her family was quarantined. Then it was Dr Buck, a former President of Njala University. Her family is presently quarantined. Thirdly, it was Rita, a staff of the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone. Today, while at the hospital, I discovered that we had lost another recent graduate in nursing. Hajara was engaged to another SLEFES graduate and they were planning their wedding.
Frightening social and economic implications
Matthew Brima had just returned from some areas in Sierra Leone hardest hit by the virus. He and others had been delivering 100 bags of rice, with other food items and toiletries to pastors. He writes: ‘Every aspect of the country has been affected. I saw projects abandoned, companies closed, market centers empty, and villages almost wiped out! I listened to pastors who have lost colleagues and members. I visited villages where entire families have died. We don’t know when schools will reopen, 22 bodies were put out in the streets. If this is the situation in Sierra Leone, imagine what is happening in Liberia, the worst affected country.’
Moses Cooper, General Secretary of IFES in Liberia (LIFES), wrote recently, ‘We are overwhelmed with what is happening in Liberia.’
A ray of hope
As of 17 October and 19 October respectively, Senegal and Nigeria have been declared free from Ebola. Praise the Lord! May we soon hear of such reports from the other countries!
An urgent call to prayer
West Africa—Pray for the three West African nations hardest hit with the Ebola virus: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
Communities directly affected by the virus—Pray for quarantined families and affected breast-feeding children. Pray for orphaned children and widows. Pray for the daughter of Dr Buck and many others like her who now have responsibility of mourning or caring for dead or ailing family members. Pray for students and schools that have closed down.
Authentic care and support—Pray for personal, organizational, national, and international support in aid to affected families and communities. Pray for the global church to show a compassionate, authentic, and practical demonstration of the love of Christ through giving in cash and kind.
Evangelical leaders and ministries—Pray for leaders like Matthew Brima, Moses Cooper, and Kpandei Tucker right at the Ebola epidemic battlefront. Pray for God’s gracious mercies, covering, and courage as they lead in bringing care and comfort to the affected and bereaved. Pray for deeply affected ministries and churches as they process and respond to the outbreak.
God’s intervention of supernatural healing for the Ebola virus—Pray for health departments, practitioners, and NGOs. Pray for wisdom for medical experts, researchers, and policy makers in implementing the right interventions to prevent further regional and international spread of the EVD. Pray for God to work with saving and restoring power for the honor of his glorious name.
Nana Yaw Offei Awuku serves as the Lausanne International Deputy Director for English, Portuguese, and Spanish-speaking Africa. The Ebola Outbreak is one of the global mission issues available for local churches to highlight on Global Mission Sunday. Learn more about how your local church can participate on 16 November 2014.