By Emily Easttom
Reprinted from Baptist Press (www.baptistpress.com), news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.
JOHANNESBURG (BP) — In an effort to stem what health officials have called the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history, Baptists in West Africa have implemented strategies to provide basic education about the virus.
The 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected eight countries and caused more than 4,000 deaths, the World Health Organization estimates.
Trevor Yoakum, an International Mission Board missionary, said false beliefs about the virus continue to spread in West Africa. “Some people believe that if they bathe with water and salt then they will be cured of Ebola,” Yoakum said.
To confront some of these beliefs, Yoakum and his wife, in conjunction with Baptist Global Response, formulated a campaign in Togo to distribute 15,000 Ebola information brochures across the country. The brochures share how Ebola spread, and the material will be disseminated in various ways, including a televised meeting to provide a nationwide public service announcement.
“The moderators of each Baptist association will distribute copies to the pastors of the churches in their areas,” Yoakum said. “local partner”; will distribute the pamphlets throughout the country on a nationwide campaign to various villages outside the association areas.”
Yoakum said distribution to the villages will take less than a month.
“In the urban areas, it is easy to spot posters that give information about Ebola,” he said. “In the villages and other less populated areas, information about Ebola is not so widespread.”
Yoakum said he anticipates a positive reaction from the people.
“If at least five people see one brochure, we could potentially reach up to 75,000 people,” he said.
Lily Ronaldo,* a Christian worker in Guinea, said she uses storying and role-playing as a means to teach Africans about Ebola prevention.
“We have been hosting workshops, teaching the believers in our church a story of two women who react very differently about Ebola,” Ronaldo said. “Through the story and the discussion that follows we are able to share what Ebola is, how it is transmitted, simple things people can do to protect themselves from being infected, and how to help stop the spread of the disease.”
Ronaldo said the workshops last from three to four hours, and materials are presented until believers are comfortable enough to share what they learned with the rest of the community, where superstitions are common.
“There are still people that do not even believe that Ebola is real,” Ronaldo said. “Some believe the government had the disease brought in to postpone elections and others believe it is a way for the government to get financial help from the outside; even some well-educated people believe some of these lies.”
Workers ask fellow Christians to pray that those living in Ebola-affected areas will receive the proper education regarding prevention and transmission of the virus, and that many will turn to God amid this difficult time.
For more information about how you can help, go to gobgr.org or Baptist Global Response at (866) 359-2864.