Round table on Ebola

On 21st October the round table, ?Brothers of Ebola - ? Listening to the Most Afflicted Communities,? was held at the Generalate.   The Camillian Religious. various religious institutes and voluntary and international cooperation organizations- which also promoted the event - were present: the DOKITA Association ofVolunteers ONLUS, the Italian Caritas, the Camillians, the Fatebenefratelli ? Hospitaller Order of St. John of God, CUAMM - Doctors with Africa, FOCSIV - Volunteers in the World, the AVSI Foundation- NGO ONLUS, the Josephites of Murialdo, the Xaverian Missionaries, the Salesians of Don Bosco - the DON BOSCO IN THE WORLD Foundation, the VIS ? International Volunteers for Development.

The purpose of the Round Table was and - in the wake of the meeting - continues to be to raise the awareness of, to involve and to activate national and international organizations so that together they may address the health emergency caused by the Ebola Virus Disease, which has now become a humanitarian emergency.  So far, in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia the Ebola virus has contaminated some 9,000 people and killed some 4,000. The consequences of the epidemic do not stop at the thousands of deaths.  In fact, during the Round Table, concerns for the local populations were raised in terms of access to health-care for the treatment of ?ordinary? illnesses, food security, growing economic instability and social disruption.

Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are among the countries with the lowest Human Development Index. People here also die of malaria and childbirth, due to the lack of facilities for appropriate screening, the closing of hospitals and the psychosis generated by the spread of Ebola. People die of starvation on account of the lack of access to food and the rise in prices. They die for lack of information regarding the transmission of the virus and preventive personal hygiene practices. They die from injustice for the lack of institutional support to the local governments, which are structurally weak, while the most vulnerable population groups suffer the consequences. The number of orphaned and abandoned children is growing.

Mons. Emmanuel Felemou, Bishop of Kankan and President of the Episcopal Conference of Guinea Conakry, participated in the Round Table by telephone. The Bishop described the general situation in his country and underscored the need for greater commitment in the area of prevention. When asked about the role of religious leaders in the field, the Bishop answered that it should be to give hope to the population, which believes Ebola is a divine punishment.

The following members of theassociations that organized the Round Table spoke:

Fr. Natalio Paganelli - and together with him Fr. Aris Miranda, a Camillian religious - Apostolic Administrator of the diocese of Makeni in Sierra Leone,who is organizing a Task Force for action starting from a small local hospital which is entrusted to his management. Fr. Natalio underscored the urgent need for food security especially for quarantined families, for the taking in of orphans, for a facility and equipment for screening - at least at a primary level - for the treatment of all other illnesses.

Fr. Maurizio Boa, a Josephite of Murialdo from Freetown, described the state of emergency of the population of this area. The quarantine imposed by the government authorities by now is hindering access to food and treatment. The dramatic novelty of Ebola, compared to other epidemics of the recent past, is that it has struck the capital cities.

Brother Michael Koroma of the Fatebenefratelli from Lunsar, in SierraLeone, confirmed the presence of an authentic humanitarian emergency in his area: there is a lack of technical equipment for initial screening, a rise in child malnutrition and in the number of deaths caused by childbirth and other tropical diseases. There is growing concern in view of the opening of the local hospital because, in order to provide treatment in safety ,healthcare workers require special training.

Mons. Robert Vitillo, the delegate of Caritas Internationalis based in Geneva and delegate for health and HIV, once again drew attention to the need for prevention in view ofthe reopening of religious and civic hospitals. It is necessary to inform the population and to introduce basic measures of precaution and prevention. The WHO (World Health Organization) is very much involved in the Ebola emergency and seeks to inform governments in real time about the developments of the epidemic. However, the aim is to support but not to supplant national governments.

Finally, Br. Marco Fabello, of the Fatebenefratelli, posed asearing question: When did the world become aware of Ebola? Why since the first outbreak of Ebola in the mid?90s has no-one ? or very few ? tried to find a vaccine for the virus or taken actions to prevent future outbreaks?  Is it finally taking notice now that that the disease has killed Westerners? That could be the answer.

The Round table was moderated by MarcoIazzolino, collaborator of the Camillian Religious for the missions in the world, and Moira Monacelli of Caritas Italy.



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