Source: The Christian Post
The deadly Ebola virus has made its presence felt near the Holy Orthodox Mission in Freetown, Sierra Leone, which is run by former rock star, and now Greek Orthodox priest, Fr. Themi Adams.
Sierra Leone, President Ernest Bai Koroma, has declared a public health emergency in the West African country, and a recent BBC report stated, "He vowed to quarantine sick patients at home and have authorities conduct house-to-house searches for others who may have been exposed as the country struggles with families resisting treatment at isolation centers. Some have kept loved ones at home given the high death rates at clinics where Ebola patients are quarantined," said the BBC story.
"His announcement late Wednesday came as neighboring Liberia also increased efforts to slow the virulent disease's spread, shutting down schools and ordering most public servants to stay home from work."
Dr. Heinz Feldmann, Chief of Virology at the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said, "It could be helpful for the government to have powers to isolate and quarantine people and it's certainly better than what's been done so far," said. "Whether it works, we will have to wait and see."
Ebola now has been blamed for 729 deaths in four West African countries this year, and has shown no signs of slowing down, particularly in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has also reached Nigeria's biggest city Lagos, where authorities said on Friday a man had died of the virus".
And now Freetown Sierra Leone is in a complete lock down mode and with airline cancellations, Fr. Themi Adams, says he underestimated the impact of this rampant disease spreading so quickly close to home and impacting on his people.
He said that he had recently been conducting "Preventative Hygiene Education", at the mission he runs which has three large compounds in the Greater Freetown area serving over 2000 children, youth and adults through his our various educational, ecclesiastical and medical projects.
On Saturday (August 3), gave a dramatic interview by phone with screenwriter, Wid Bastian, who is working on a script for Themi, a motion picture about the inspiring story of the rock-star-turned-priest.
In the interview, Fr. Themi explained the terror and panic that has surrounded him and made a desperate cry for help.
Themi said: "This country has very much been reduced to trauma. Sierra Leone is a resilient nation that has suffered consistently from about 1991. I cannot imagine another country that has suffered so much over such a long time, either through wars, poverty, and now through this Ebola crisis.
"Sierra Leone has suddenly become the epicenter of Ebola, which was previously centered in Guinea. But through the porous borders that we have, a lot of people with Ebola have come across the border into Sierra Leone either to look for relatives, or help, and then gone back again. But in the meantime, they have introduced this virus to the country.
"It is a vicious thing, and compared to the Civil War we had here, Ebola is an invisible enemy. It's like an invisible serial killer that strikes and you don't know from where or when. During the Civil War, you could hear the bombs and you could see the enemy and therefore try and take some kind of reactive action, but with this one, we don't know what to do, how to detect when it's about to strike."
Fr. Themi said that there has been a lot of self-examination in Sierra Leone since the Ebola virus began to strike, and that many people are asking why it was happening in this country; that after years of poverty, corruption, corrupt governments, is now just starting get back on track and then, "we get hit with such a serious blow."
Themi continued by saying, "We have learned from the World Health Organization that this Ebola crisis in now out of control and many groups, including ours, have sent out an SOS for help from around the world. There are more people getting it and part of the reason is of a very poor medical infrastructure in the three worst hit countries. I would say that the best hospital here would be equal to a very small American rural hospital.
"The second thing is the lack of education among the people around Ebola which were just ignoring the situation for a long time. I starting to preach about it three months ago to our people, telling them that 'this Ebola is coming, be careful, stop touching people, stop shaking hands, take precautions, wash your hands constantly, wear gloves if possible,' and I was just laughed at.
"In fact, people started calling me 'Father Ebola'. When I would go and meet the beggars in the street, I would say, 'Gentlemen, we have a problem coming in this country, take care, if you can't stop begging, don't touch the hands of the people who give you the money,' and again they were just laughing, and even now, while some are still in denial, the majority of people are now taking it very seriously and wonder why it was allowed to come into the country."
They said that another problem is the issue of black magic and witchcraft.
"Unfortunately, it's in the DNA of the people of the West African region," he said. "You may not know the origins of voodoo in Haiti, is actually from this part of Africa. It came to the American continent when the West African slaves were taken to the New World and we have this concept of the walking dead, the pins and needles through the doll, the witch gun. It's all to do with getting power by incantations and going to the medicine man or the witch doctor, the herbalist, and he will do something for you, give you an emulate, do some chants. In the worst-case scenario, human sacrifice is involved.
"The problem is that a lot of people suffering from Ebola, instead of going to a relatively modern hospital -- at least the best we have here -- have gone to their local witch doctor and the local herbalists, and of course they can do nothing. So eventually that person dies, and contaminates all the people around them.
"Another very big problem, there is no trust in the Western medical profession, indeed even with quite educated people. They believe that doctors can kill them, even though they have taken the Hippocratic Oath, and want to save lives. I can say people within my own circle here in the Orthodox Church and I'm sure it's the same in other churches and other institutions, people believe that."
He explained that people get scared when they see a doctor with a big needle, and wearing gloves and masks, and believe that the needle is full of poison that will kill them off.
"A part of the big problem is that even the doctors themselves were caught unawares and they weren't really aware of the crisis, the incredible danger, and so many nurses have died, and even yesterday I heard of three other nurses that died in a place called Kanamar. So in one hospital here in Freetown, a patient went into the hospital who supposedly had Ebola and it turned out they didn't but all the doctors and nurses ran out, and left the hospital and left the patient alone.
"So, you've got the doctors, who are being caught unawares, and now the broader public believe that the doctors are going to kill them, so you have a fairly lethal cocktail of misunderstanding. And the virus is quite happy about that because it jumps from one person to the other without any ammunition being directed against it, basically it's a lack of knowledge about it. You understand it's quite tragic."
Fr. Themi says now there has been a "moratorium on movement" in Freetown, after many deaths, and trying to stop it spreading any further.
"However, what is interesting from a religious point of view is the president has called for a day of fasting and prayer on Monday, so that's really good to know. The other result here is that there is panic setting in, and what they are telling me is the same feeling, the same panic attacks that they used to experience during the 10 year civil war are coming back now and they don't know which way to turn."
He then said, "We are a Christian organization, unashamedly so, so we believe in God, we believe in the power of God, so what we do we pray a lot about it. Every day we have a church ceremony and, when we are allowed to do so, we take the cross around in our churches and even outside, and we pray to our Lord to protect this nation and the city, so we do that every day, we have the divine intervention aspect of it.
"On the more earthly aspect we are handing out gloves, so if you wear them and end up touching them, that is a good protection. We have chlorinated water in all but one of our buildings, so that should a person come into one of them, except for one, you have to chlorinate your hands with water you won't be able to enter without washing with chlorinated water, which in apparently kills the virus. Then we are doing a lot of educational work our people in our churches. We have been emphasizing this effort for three months and now they believe us. Now, instead of being 'Father Ebola', it is back to 'Father Themi' again."
He said that he is having difficulty stopping some of his clients, who are polio victims and amputees from trying to get out into the streets and start begging, with all the danger that can bring to them.
He then said that there is a great need for food and medical supplies to help those under his care in Freetown.
"This is an SOS for a container of food. Why? So I can feed them every day so they stop going out to beg, to stop these women putting pressure on their husbands to go out and become beggars, do you understand? We also need medical supplies, gloves disposable gloves, facemasks, cans of Dettol spray, chlorinated, chlorine tablets, for people to just try and prevent this thing. It is best to send money so we can buy these items here because of the bureaucratic problems here."
He concluded the interview by saying, "This is in West Africa now, but it can hit other countries in Europe, as well as America and other parts of the world. This is no longer just a West African problem -- it's a global one!"