By Monica Oboagwina, OP
No, this project is not my main ministry. No, I didn’t initiate the idea. And no, this is not a second job, to answer a few questions I’ve been asked. This is an urgent, short-term project; a humanitarian response to the outbreak of lethal Ebola.
A co-worker’s heartrending, “Let’s do something,” in the increasing number of Ebola victims in some parts of West Africa, saw to the first shipment of medical supplies, clothes, food, and toys sent to Sierra Leone on Sept. 21.
When the donation to pay for a 40-foot container came, we were not even sure we could get enough supplies to fill it. When the message went out, ever-compassionate human beings donated medical supplies. Not wanting to assume we know all that is needed in Sierra Leone, we put a call through to the health workers on the ground. From their experience, they don’t only need medical supplies, they need food, clothes, toys, and cash. While expressing their gratitude, they said people forget that victims need to eat and wear clothes; victims’ families need the supplies, too, as many are quarantined or isolated due to community rejection. Children are part of those suffering. Anything to make them happy is appreciated.
We again campaigned, and donors didn’t disappoint. As the word spread, people who probably felt helpless like I was on how to contribute, “did something.” A second shipment of 940 boxes went on its way to Sierra Leone on Oct. 2. We didn’t even have to do much this time except to receive deliveries and help load the supplies because the items came packaged and labeled directly from pharmaceutical companies and warehouses. The medical supplies shipped included respiratory equipment, bleach, protective gear, face masks, ear loops, goggles, medicine, sanitizers, wipes, gloves, and so on. Food and clothes were included.
A Voice of America radio personnel, on interviewing Dr. Chris Egbulem, founder and president of Action Africa and Amen Foundation, said she told herself there has to be somebody or an organization doing something in the Washington, D.C. area. She decided to research into it and discovered our project.
Listening to NPR radio news last month, I heard the president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, advise his country to stop the normal cultural practices of touching, kissing both cheeks as a form of greeting, shaking hands, visiting the sick, and burying the dead. Avoiding these practices will help stop the spread of Ebola. They should rather call the appropriate Ebola healthcare workers if they notice any symptoms. He seemed to realize the absurdity of his words on his people by adding that these are hard times and hard times demand hard measures!
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia appealed to world leaders recently on BBC radio to aid West Africa in eliminating Ebola. This human tragedy should not be seen as an African problem alone. Worth mentioning is the fact that the presidents of the three most-affected countries—Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—are collaborating on various fronts. This is a clarion call to do something.