Jesuits in Africa join the fight against Ebola

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Ignorance, prejudice and fear are the first enemies to fight if you want to eradicate the Ebola virus, and the African Jesuit AIDS Network (AJAN) is getting involved in the fight by providing culturally sensitive information that is urgently needed to increase understanding of the virus and address the fears of the people.

In a statement published in its newsletter, AJAN said that as Ebola spreads rapidly throughout West Africa, people in affected areas are gripped by ignorance, suspicion and unreasoning fear. This has led to acts that are counterproductive and harmful, such as the recent attack on a health centre in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. 

“Some rural communities refuse to comply with measures proposed by international NGOs and central authorities, which they see as the source of the problem,” said Fr Paterne Mombe SJ, director of AJAN.  “This means community leaders and organisations, and this includes the Church, have an urgent role to play to enlighten people and to avoid disaster.”

AJAN has considerable experience in drafting and disseminating easy-to-understand and culturally appropriate material about the AIDS epidemic, and the network plans to draw on this expertise to produce similar material about Ebola. The material will be disseminated in communities where Jesuits and other Church agencies such as Caritas are present.

Fr Mombe said: “We are calling for support to produce illustrated posters, flyers and leaflets to bridge the big information gap and to address the fears of Ebola that people are experiencing everywhere in Africa at this point.”

AJAN plans to distribute the material in countries neighbouring those already affected such as Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin and Cameroon. Depending on resources, AJAN hopes to be able to cover other African countries where Ebola may yet appear as well.

In a second phase of intervention, the illustrated posters, flyers and leaflets will be accompanied by workshops and training-of-trainers to enable local communities to share accurate information that will help prevent the spread of Ebola. [AJAN]