CRS on the front lines of Ebola crisis, but there's a long way to go

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Any time a humanitarian crisis breaks out in any corner of the globe, it is a good bet that you'll find representatives from Catholic Relief Services (CRS) on the ground, doing everything possible to help. And the current outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is no exception.

CRS, the U.S. bishops' international humanitarian aid agency, has already had a presence in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea for many years, so they have a long history and familiarity with the local people. Since the Ebola outbreak was first confirmed in March and has spread rapidly through West Africa, CRS has been working to increase its role in prevention and management efforts, recently allocating an additional $376,000 to its work on stopping the spread of the deadly virus. 

A big part of the effort is simply raising awareness and educating the local population in prevention strategies. CRS has been partnering with local community leaders, going door to door to distribute hygiene kits and information. Prevention, they say, is the only way to stop the crisis.

But news thus far has been grim. The latest reported death toll is upwards of 1,550 people, although the World Health Organization says the numbers may actually be higher because some people are hiding family members who have the disease or refusing to take them to hospitals. And the disease is infecting medical staff at an unprecedented rate, with 240 reported cases of health care workers who have developed the disease, half of whom have died. And other people in these communities who are ill are avoiding getting medical care for fear of being infected with Ebola at the hospital.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered a not-so-optimistic outlook this week when he said that the worst is yet to come. "Unfortunately, we are definitely not at the peak. It's going to get worse before it gets better," he told NPR. "The real question is how much worse will it get? How many more people will be infected and how much more risk to the world will there be?"

These are questions that we can't yet answer. The one thing we do know is that we must take every possible action to contain the disease and to stop its spread as quickly as possible. If you are interested in supporting the work of CRS in fighting Ebola, you can donate to the CRS West Africa Emergency Fund by clicking here.

Image: Flickr photo cc by European Commission DG ECHO © EC/ECHO


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