Liberia

Liberia’s United Methodists Keep Ban on Divorced Clergy Becoming Bishops

Photo via Julu Swen / UMNS / RNS

Members gather in front of First United Methodist Church in Monrovia, Liberia. Photo via Julu Swen / UMNS / RNS

In the United States, United Methodists are fighting about whether to allow clergy to marry gay couples. In Liberia, divorce is on the line.

The United Methodist Church in Liberia recently voted to uphold a long-standing provision barring divorced clergy from running for the office of the bishop.

The church’s leaders say the ban brings moral credibility to the office and guides the conduct of those who want to be bishop.

How to Beat Ebola

CONSIDER A FATHER from rural Liberia who shows symptoms of Ebola. There are no health clinics in or near his village, so he and his family make the 10-hour trip to Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, using public transportation, potentially infecting others at every stage of their journey.

They arrive at the city’s public hospital, which is overflowing with patients because the facility is understaffed and underresourced. Staff members don’t have sufficient training or the tools to treat Ebola’s symptoms, the space to isolate infected patients, or the appropriate equipment to protect themselves from danger. They can’t cope with the sheer number of patients—those with the virus or with other illnesses—and the father likely dies.

What if, instead, the father is seen by a community health worker in his village? She notes his fever, vomiting, and diarrhea and knows he needs fluids immediately. The nurse who supervises her concurs, and they begin treatment. In the meantime, the nurse sends word for an ambulance from the nearby clinic to retrieve him, and she tells the family to limit their contact with others and to watch for similar symptoms in themselves for three weeks.

The local clinic is fully staffed and resourced. Doctors and nurses in full protective gear meet the ambulance, take the father to a hospital bed that is placed at some distance from others, and continue administering fluids. Because his community health worker spotted his symptoms early, and because high-quality care is close by, the father likely lives.

EBOLA HAS FLOURISHED because of the first scenario. The countries most affected by the virus are among the poorest in the world and, as we’ve seen, lack the public health infrastructure to cope with the outbreak. But strengthening it is what will change the path and progression of Ebola—or any disease.

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Ebola Is an Inequality Crisis

Ebola precautions taken in Guinea, © EC/ECHO / Flickr.com

Ebola precautions taken in Guinea, © EC/ECHO / Flickr.com

In the past few months, the world has witnessed the worst outbreak of Ebola since the disease was first identified in 1976 — it has already claimed the lives of more than 3,400 people. But while the first cases in the U.S. and Spain have stirred fears over the past week, we don’t need to fear an unstoppable epidemic in developed countries. As World Bank President Jim Yong Kim aptly put it in a piece for the Huffington Post:

The knowledge and infrastructure to treat the sick and contain the virus exists in high- and middle-income counties. However, over many years, we have failed to make these things accessible to low-income people in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. So now thousands of people in these countries are dying because, in the lottery of birth, they were born in the wrong place.

Dr. Kim makes the crucial point here — the current Ebola outbreak is much more than a public health crisis — it is an inequality crisis.

Ebola Strikes Another American Aid Worker

Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse, right, gives orders for medication. Ima

Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse, right, gives orders for medication. Image via Samaritan's Purse.

A third American aid worker has been diagnosed with Ebola.

The missionary group SIM USA announced September 2 that one of its American doctors has been diagnosed with Ebola in Liberia. The doctor was treating pregnant women and those giving birth in the capital city of Monrovia.

He was not treating Ebola patients in the hospital’s isolation unit, however. The group said in a statement that it isn’t known how the doctor was infected. The doctor isolated himself as soon as he developed symptoms, and he has been transferred to the Ebola isolation unit. He is doing well and is in good spirits, according to SIM USA.

In a related development, Kent Brantly, an American doctor earlier diagnosed with Ebola and now recovering from it, gave his first interview to NBC’s Matt Lauer. Brantly said that on July 23, when he first became ill, he knew something was wrong.

“I woke up that morning and really I just felt a little off, I felt a little warm, I felt under the weather,” Brantly said. “I took my temperature and it was 100.0, I think.”

Brantly said he was thankful his wife and two children had left a few days before to attend a wedding in Texas. He said he was not aware that there was one night when doctors thought he would die, but he does remember a night when he felt he wouldn’t make it.

“I felt like I was about to die and I said to the nurse who was taking care of me, ‘I’m sick, I have no reserve and I don’t know how long I can keep this up,’” he told Lauer.

Is Ebola a Curse from God? Some African Christian Leaders Think So

Hospital in Kenema, Sierra Leone, where Ebola virus samples are tested, in June 2014. Courtesy of Leasmhar via Wikimedia Commons

As Western nations evacuate their citizens from West Africa’s growing Ebola outbreak, some Christian leaders have begun to speak of the virus as a curse from God.

On Friday, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola crisis ravaging the region an international health emergency. On the same day, Nigeria became the latest country in West Africa to declare the virus crisis a national emergency, the day after Spain evacuated a priest and a nun from Liberia to Madrid.

On Saturday, a Congolese nun died from Ebola in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, the AP reported.

The outbreak started in December in Guinea, but was not discovered until March. It has since killed more than 1,000 people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

“People are having different misconceptions that this is [a curse] from God,” said Bishop Sumoward Harris, now retired from the Lutheran Church in Liberia. “This is depending on how they are interpreting the Bible. But I don’t think God is angry and is issuing a punishment.”

In Liberia, more than 100 Christian leaders meeting in early August declared that God was angry and Ebola a plague. 

Second American Ebola Patient Arrives in US

A small plane carrying Nancy Writebol, the second American Ebola patient from Liberia, arrived in the United States on Tuesday, making a brief refueling stop in Bangor, Maine, en route to Atlanta and Emory University Hospital.

The same plane, a Gulfstream jet specially outfitted with an isolation pod, brought the first American patient, 33-year-old physician Kent Brantly, to the medical center from Liberia on Saturday, WLBZ-TV reports. The plane was on the ground in Bangor for less than an hour.

Brantly, with Samaritan’s Purse, and Writebol, with Service in Mission, are medical missionaries who were infected with Ebola while working with patients in Liberia.

SIM USA said on Monday that the 59-year-old Writebol was in serious condition.

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