THE EBOLA OUTBREAK IN WEST AFRICA AND ITS PASTORAL CHALLENGES

This current outbreak of ebola in West Africa is the worst epidemic of E.V.D. in History. It has severely impeded economic growths in the affected countries (especially in Sierra Leone and Liberia). Almost all international flights to Sierra Leone and Liberia have been suspended indefinitely. The health facilities in the affected countries are incapable of managing the huge healthcare challenges posed by the epidemic.

Local and international health experts continue to advise us to frequently wash our hands with soap and water (or with chlorinated water), to avoid touching or shaking hands, not to eat bats, monkeys, ‘bush meat’, to eat well-cooked meat, not to touch dead bodies and to avoid congregating unnecessarily.

Two Spanish missionaries and health professionals have been infected with the Ebola virus in Liberia as they were themselves taking care of victims. They both later died in Spain. In Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, 318 health workers have been infected and 151 have died; in the five countries affected, so far 5,762 persons have been infected and 2,793 have died. The epidemic may last for another 6 or 9 months; and it has been projected that around 20,000 people would have died by the time the situation would have been brought under control.

Currently, we omit the ‘sign of peace’ at Mass. We have suspended administering the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and the Anointing of the Sick because they require that the celebrant anoints the persons receiving these sacraments. Holy Communion must be gently dropped into the hand of the communicant so as to avoid touching the saliva of the communicant. Dioceses and parishes that have invested so much time in building up Small Christian Communities (S.C.Cs) now have to suspend SCC meetings. The presentation of a death certificate is a prerequisite for a funeral Mass. Currently, waking a dead person is discouraged. In some parishes, Sunday Masses have been multiplied so as to reduce human contacts. The celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Spiritan presence in Sierra Leone, that were scheduled for November 2014, have been postponed indefinitely.

A. Berewa, Superior of Sierra Leone

 

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