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Church leaders help people stay safe in Ebola-affected African countries

Church partners in Sierra Leone and Liberia are playing a vital role in the fight against the spread of the Ebola virus, says Tearfund ...

Church leaders in Ebola-affected Sierra Leone and Liberia are playing a vital role in helping people to stay safe, says Christian relief and development agency Tearfund.

Tearfund partners have found that church leaders are widely trusted and are able to use church services and other gatherings to help people understand  how to stop the spread of Ebola.

"Everybody is afraid," says Patricia Conteh, Tearfund’s projects officer in Sierra Leone. "The rate of infection increases every day and there is now very minimal interaction. We don't hug, we don't shake hands, we don't have contact. 

"The Church is strategically placed to help because people take what the pastor says and act on it," she continued. "The Church has a big big role in this fight, and it needs to keep being proactive."

Tearfund’s partner the Evangelical Fellowship of Sierra Leone (EFSL) has used its network of more than 1,000 churches to inform people about prevention measures. With many public gatherings banned, churches are among the few locations where people can learn about Ebola.

Rev Jonathan Titus-Williams, General Secretary of EFSL, said, "People are responding positively to the work these pastors are doing, as in most communities in this country people have trust and respect for religious leaders."

Tearfund calculates that through the church’s work in Sierra Leone 350,000 people have already learnt about Ebola and measures to prevent it. Tearfund has supplied churches with demonstration hygiene kits, comprising hand sanitisers, soap and chlorine, and a further 2,600 kits have been distributed to families. With the Ebola virus proving weak outside the human body, good hygiene can play a crucial role in stopping its spread.

Similar awareness-raising work is being done in neighbouring Liberia by Tearfund’s partner the Association of Evangelicals of Liberia and in Mali by partner Association Protestante de la Santé au Mali (APSM).

Photo: Tearfund’s preventative work includes education on hand washing: good hygiene can play a crucial role in stopping the spread of the Ebola virus. Photo by Will Boase/Tearfund

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