Ebola frontline carers face deadly dangers in their work

(Photo: REUTERS / Ahmed Jallanzo / UNICEF / Handout via Reuters)Health workers, wearing head-to-toe protective gear, prepare for work, outside an isolation unit in Foya District, Lofa County, Liberia in this July 2014 UNICEF handout photo. As of July 27, 2014, a total of 1,323 cases, including 729 deaths, had been attributed to Ebola virus disease (EVD) in the four West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Liberia has borne 329 of these cases, including 156 deaths.

Many of the people helping in the fight against the deadly Ebola disease are priests, religious people, and educators playing the role of caregivers to the stricken.

The Ebola outbreak has created a quandary for some of the people most directly in danger: religious and other volunteer groups, whose members are on the front lines of the relief effort, NBC News reports.

And Laura Sheahen of Caritas Internationalis told Vatican Radio the situation is deteriorating on the ground, despite the best efforts of first responders.

"I've been in touch with [many] of our priests and health workers on the ground in Guinea and Sierra Leone, and indeed it is getting worse – things are getting really scary."

The dilemma of foreign carers is whether to leave West Africa out of caution, or to go there to help battle the spread of the virus, which so far has killed more than 800 people.

Dr. Kent Brantly, a physician working for the evangelical relief organization Samaritan's Purse, was flown back to the U.S. for treatment at Atlanta's special Centers for Disease Control and Prevention facility.

In their efforts for Ebola victims some carers have contracted the virus in Liberia.

Nancy Writebol, a nurse's assistant with an affiliated group SIM, who also contracted the disease, is expected to arrive at the same center in Atlanta.

Samaritan's Purse and SIM are withdrawing some 60 "nonessential" personnel from Liberia.

Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs for Samaritan's Purse, which is based in Boone, North Carolina said that while the policy could change, the groups aren't withdrawing front-line doctors and critical staff.

"We have doctors, we have nurses there. We have staff there who have Ebola," Isaacs told NBC station WCNBC of Charlotte. "We are not leaving them. We are not evacuating.

"We are curtailing our operations so we can be effective and appropriate for what is going on right now," he said. "And right now, in Liberia, there is a lot of instability and insecurity and a lot of fear."

Rev. Emmanuel Boakye-Jiadom, pastor of Ghana Mission United Methodist Church in Charlotte, told WCNC that one of his parishioners had signed up for his fourth mission to Africa despite the outbreak.

Catholic Relief Services, the humanitarian service of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, also has no plans to leave.

Caritas reports that basic medical supplies like gloves and masks are in critically short supply, and even completely exhausted in some places.

The organization is campaigning for immediate assistance to help combat the epidemic.

Copyright © 2014 Ecumenical News