June 8 was a bright and happy Sunday at the dedication and opening of Valunia United Methodist Church in the village of Monghere. Sierra Leone Bishop John K. Yambasu was among the distinguished guests, who also included the Paramount Chief James B.N. Vonjo III, the Queen of the Rosary School marching band and most of the village. A mini-mob scene ensued when the doors opened and excited worshipers rushed to fill every plastic chair inside the new sanctuary.
That was one of the first Sundays Yambasu warned the community about Ebola.
Now, months later, the Monghere community knows the grief of losing families and friends to Ebola. But church members still rush through the church doors anytime they open. “In situations of distress and calamity, Africans draw closer to God for divine intervention,” Yambasu said. “This is especially so when every attempt to contain Ebola seems not to work.”
On the first Sunday in November, members of Charles Davies United Methodist Church had a dedication service for 40 new chairs purchased by the men of the church. The chairs help with overcrowding. “People believe the house of worship is a place of solace,” the Rev. Sahr Fallah said. “So when they feel hopelessness; when they feel all is lost, the only place they can find hope is in the church.”
Kissy United Methodist Hospital was closed Nov. 11 after Dr. Martin Salia, chief medical officer and surgeon, tested positive for Ebola. Salia, the sixth doctor in Sierra Leone to be infected with the deadly virus, was taken to the Hastings Ebola Treatment Center near Freetown.
Sierra Leone United Methodist Bishop John K. Yambasu and Beatrice Gbanga, the United Methodist Sierra Leone Conference’s medical coordinator, held an emergency meeting at the hospital to talk about steps to protect the staff and make sure the hospital is disinfected immediately. “I was emotionally disturbed when I got news this morning that Dr. Salia had tested positive of Ebola. I prayed that the news might turn out to be false,” Yambasu said at the meeting.
It is not clear how Salia contracted the virus, but health ministry sources say the doctor worked at least three other medical facilities in addition to Kissy Hospital.
Several units of Kissy Hospital, including surgical wards, were shut down last month when a patient who was admitted for other health conditions manifested signs of Ebola. That patient was taken to the Government Connaught Hospital in central Freetown, where he died.
Salia’s infection comes several weeks after the 21-day quarantine imposed on all staff in direct contact with the patient who died.
A reporter witnessed patients, including some mothers who had just given birth overnight, fleeing from the hospital after the news of Salia’s infection.
Hospital staff will be quarantined for the next 21 days. The Sierra Leone Conference Ebola response team will provide a 50-kilogram (110-pound) bag of rice, sugar, milk, soap, water and other food to the quarantined staff. The staffers also will receive minutes for their cell phones so they can report on their health condition in case of any emergency or deteriorating health.