Ebola crisis calls for greater response

Caritas member CRS provided funding to help rehabilitate this graveyard in Freetown, Sierra Leone. As the Ebola outbreak continues to escalate at an alarming rate, safe and dignified burials have become more difficult. Photo by Michael Stulman/Catholic Relief Services

Caritas member CRS provided funding to help rehabilitate this graveyard in Freetown, Sierra Leone. As the Ebola outbreak continues to escalate at an alarming rate, safe and dignified burials have become more difficult.
Photo by Michael Stulman/Catholic Relief Services

Caritas says urgent action is needed in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Caritas and other Catholic Church health experts will meet on 4 November in Rome to discuss scaling up their actions.

Caritas is already increasing its activities in the region by distributing hygiene kits to families, training clergy and other community , broadcasting Ebola messages on the radio and providing food to families whose livelihoods have been affected by the crisis.

“At this point, it’s not only about preventing Ebola. We’re also called to care for the thousands of healthy people who were already poor, who have no access to healthcare for other illnesses and whose lives have been turned upside down by this crisis,” said Monsignor Robert J. Vitillo, Health Advisor for Caritas Internationalis, who recently returned from Liberia.

“This is a shattering emergency. We need to strengthen the response of Caritas and our collaboration with other Catholic Church organisations as quickly as possible. Our brothers and sisters cannot wait,” said Monsignor Vitillo.

[Tweet “”Our brothers and sisters cannot wait” #caritas #ebola”]

“Local and national Caritas organisations have been there since the beginning, providing community-based prevention education and other services. Now we must expand our efforts to address the complex social and economic needs of families who are become more impoverished than ever, all as a result of the Ebola crisis,” he said.

The Rome meeting will include reports from the field via remote participation from Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Dr. Timothy Flanigan, MD, Professor of Infectious Disease Medicine and clinician, Brown University Hospital in the USA, will join the meeting in person after more than two months training healthcare workers in Liberia. Representatives from religious orders serving in West Africa will also attend.

The meeting will cover topics such as the needs of workers in rural Catholic clinics; food aid to quarantined families; education options when schools are shut down; and care and protection of Ebola orphans.

“We must also respond to the global reactions of panic and of stigmatising that are directed at West Africans, migrants from the region, and even at returning health care volunteers.”

Media are invited to attend a press session with Monsignor Vitillo, Dr. Flanigan and others at 14:00 on 4 November in the hall of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, 16 Palazzo San Calisto. For admission, please obtain credentials from the Sala Stampa of the Holy See or send your name to Laura Sheahen sheahen@caritas.va

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