Editorial: Winning the war against Ebola (January 2, 2015)

Written by Calgary Herald Editorial Board

Published by Calgary Herald on Friday, January 2, 2015

Beating the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa will require a big effort — with big dollars to back it up.

The federal government has taken a significant step in the right direction. Along with sending military doctors, nurses and medics to Sierra Leone, it is donating $20.9 million to 10 humanitarian organizations tending the sick in West Africa.

It’s particularly fitting that $2.6 million of that goes to Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian charity with its Canadian head office in Calgary. After all, the organization, which has been working in Liberia for 13 years, began throwing all its efforts in the region into combating Ebola when the outbreak began in March and was among the first to alert the international community to the impending crisis.

Samaritan’s Purse and Doctors Without Borders provided almost all the clinical care for Ebola victims in three countries in the early stages.

Health Minister Rona Ambrose calls it the “most severe and complex the world has seen in 40 years of combating the virus.”

With more than 20,000 known cases and almost 8,000 deaths, it will take extraordinary perseverance to contain the virus and prevent its spread to other parts of the world.

The challenge is compounded by a lack of trust in the authorities by the inhabitants of those countries, a belief the outbreak wasn’t real, language barriers and cultural differences in dealing with illness and death.

Samaritan’s Purse deserves praise for its straightforward, sensible approach of using public education to help address a very complicated situation. Because many Ebola-infected Liberians in remote areas are unwilling or unable to find treatment at packed, faraway medical centres, it will train family members to care for them appropriately and safely and supply Ebola treatment kits with personal protective equipment, disinfectant and medicine.

“By breaking the chain of transmission, the spread of Ebola can be curbed,” said Samaritan’s Purse Canada executive director Fred Weiss.

Based on expert projections of the spread of the virus, he estimates the $2.6 million from federal government funding will cover about half the cost of this essential program.

He’s appealing to compassionate Canadians to “join us in being good Samaritans in Liberia” through donations to help make up the shortfall.

It will take a major effort to help restore this country, which was still recovering from 14 years of civil war before the Ebola virus outbreak. As a result of the ensuing crisis, Liberia’s health system is crippled, 340 health-care providers have died, schools have been closed for months and food prices have soared 40 per cent.

The federal donation, which brings Canada’s contribution to the Ebola fight to $113 million, will also benefit groups such as Doctors Without Borders and the Canadian Red Cross.

We can all lend a hand. Even a small donation will make a big difference in the effort to vanquish a virus that potentially threatens the health of the world.

For more information and to make a donation, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website.

Read more: http://calgaryherald.com/opinion/editorials/editorial-winning-the-war-against-ebola