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The Word on the Week

Ebola Virus

This lethal virus, for which there is no known cure, is in West Africa – sufficiently remote from us not to cause panic. But for our school children on our “Once” programme and the Sankoh’s extended family in Freetown it is a very real fear.

The disease, which is highly contagious, started back in March in Guinea but soon crossed borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia. It has now reached Nigeria.

The outbreak has been blamed for the deaths of 729 people, according to World Health Organisation figures, and has left over 1,300 people with confirmed or suspected infections.

Ebola begins with the sudden onset of flu-like symptoms characterized by general malaise, fever with chills, sore throat and severe headache. Part of the problem is the ordinariness of the signs which lead to denial instead of people going for tests.

There have been 60 medical personnel deaths including Dr Khan who passed away on Tuesday. He had been at the forefront of those fighting the disease. Sadly it is now medics and officials who are being blamed by panicked populations for spreading the virus. They have been threatened with knives, stones and machetes and their vehicles sometimes surrounded by hostile mobs. Log barriers across narrow dirt roads block their way to the villages where the virus is suspected. Sick and dead villagers, cut off from help, are infecting others.

Many are pulling out of the danger area but help is on hand from the World Health Organisation who has launched a health plan with a budget of $100,000. It has the support of teams from organisations such as Doctors without Frontiers.

In another corner of the African continent in a previous century one called Joseph was, by God’s grace, able to turn around plans for his removal and cope with disaster which threatened the population of his day. Joseph was the only one who could save them, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good…the saving of many lives” (Genesis Chapter 50 verse 20).

There is also an eternal dimension to suffering which Joseph foreshadows. The remedy to that is found in Jesus Christ of whom it was said “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah Chapter 53 verse 5).

For those with the virus eternal healing is their only hope.