Ms. Beatrice Gbanga
Beatrice Gbanga, a missionary with the General Board of Global Ministries, spoke passionately about Sierra Leone’s response to Ebola at the North Texas Ministry Center on Monday, October 6, 2014.
Ms. Gbanga is a Registered Nurse and Midwife, formerly with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health. Dallas was just one of her stops as she criss-crossed America talking with United Methodists about Sierra Leone’s plight and making requests for funding via the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
Ms. Gbanga began her remarks by recalling how the disease started in her West African nation.
“A woman came down with something called ‘the strange illness,’ ” she recalled. “Ultimately, the woman died, the hospital staff that tended to her died, and the ten people who helped to bury her also died. They all died because they were not educated about the disease,” she said. “Ebola has similar symptoms as typhoid and malaria. There has been confusion about this, and this has led to so many deaths of health workers.
“Ebola has ravaged Sierra Leone,” she continued. “We have lost 150 health workers. We have lost 4 of our 200 doctors. The economy is gone because no one can get to the markets. The markets cannot operate, and there is no food. The schools and universities have been shut down since June. Can you imagine young people at home all that time?” Ms. Gbanga asked the group.
The social life of Sierra Leone residents has been hampered by the Ebola virus. “We are a very social people,” she explained. “People come by and visit all the time. Now when the calls come to say they are coming by, my response is ‘no, do not do that.’ We usually hug and touch each other, but now touching is risky business. Instead, we blow a kiss, bow or give [a] thumbs-up sign.”
A large audience attended the Ebola seminar.
According to national media reports, five people are currently being infected with Ebola every hour in Sierra Leone, and over 600 people have died so far. Liberia is the worst-hit nation, with almost two-thirds of the 3,338 deaths in West Africa.
When asked by the NTC Connection to explain the differences between Sierra Leone and Liberia’s ability to fight the disease, Ms. Gbanga spoke proudly of Sierra Leone’s Episcopal Leader, John K. Yambasu. “He got out in front of it. He brought together a coalition of religious leaders: the Catholics, Muslims and the United Methodists. They were asked to speak about Ebola from their pulpits. The churches provided chlorinated water for their worshippers to wash their hands as they entered and exited the churches.”
To get a hold on the disease, Ms. Gbanga urges the end of mass burials. “I have seen the mass graves. I am very upset with this because we drink our water from wells. The ideal is to be burned.” Also, she added, “If we had testing kits, we could determine patients with typhoid and malaria from Ebola.”
Mary Miriti, pastor of Oasis Fellowship, attended the seminar with a specific set of questions. “I am a Kenyan,” she said. “I want to know how this disease impacts the entire African continent. I have many persons form Sierra Leone in my church. One of my members lives in the same complex as the Liberian man who has the Ebola virus. I came to learn how to talk to my members.”
Sharon Heimbuch of St. Andrew heard Ms. Gbanga speak of the huge impact of UMCOR. Ms. Heimbuch left the seminar impressed with the strength of UMCOR. “It has so much power. It is wonderful, ” she said.
Florence Campbell, president of the Sisters of Sierra Leone (an umbrella group of support), and a member of Spring Valley UMC, has concerns about family members. She indicated that Sierra Leone residents living in America are inundated with requests from family members back home. “There are lots of people from Sierra Leone living here in Dallas, and we are constantly sending back home items that our people need such as hand wipes, gloves, masks and food. We are also tending to another emerging group, the orphans of Ebola.”
Ms. Gbanga not only requested funds, she asked for prayers for her nation. "I pray every morning that this epidemic be controlled. It has damaged every aspect of life.”
She plans to return to Sierra Leone on October 23, 2014.
EBOLA: Educating United Methodists Videos
How you can help
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, empowers UMCOR to continue its crucial work in the fight against Ebola and in response to other natural and human-caused disasters.
Your donation to Beatrice Gbanga (#13108Z) supports her mission work in Sierra Leone.