Saskatoon woman joins Ebola containment efforts in Liberia (April 15, 2014)

Written by Kurtis Doering

Published by CJME 980 on Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Combatting a deadly and untreatable disease is never easy, especially in an area devastated by decades of civil war.

Saskatoon's Taya Raine and the Calgary-based Christian aid group Samaritan's Purse have been in Liberia, Africa for the last month attempting to curb the country's Ebola epidemic.

"We've been busy the last three weeks just trying to respond to that and assist the government and health centres around the country to prepare, and also to appropriately and safely handle those cases coming into the hospital," Raine said, speaking on a cell phone in the capital Monrovia.

Raine is one of 17 members of Samaritan's Purse currently on the ground in Liberia. One of their major roles is education. 

"Liberians don't know what Ebola is because they've never experienced it here before," she said. "It's really important to help people understand what it is, how it's spread."

This latest outbreak is thought to have started in Guinea, where it then moved into neighbouring Liberia and Sierra Leone. As of April 10, 2014, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 179 total cases of Ebola in West Africa, with 22 found in Liberia.

Of those 179 cases, 115 died with 14 of them in Liberia.

Among the lessons of Samaritan's Purse are hand-washing, staying away from others who show symptoms of Ebola, and refraining from eating monkey and bat meat, which can carry the virus.

Raine said she can already see the difference her team is making.

"We've reached over 100,000 people in the last week and a half," she said with a chuckle.

"They're very welcoming and receptive but at the same time, change is hard right?" she added. "Even in Canada and even in the west, if you do something for a long time and someone comes and tells you to change, it's not easy to do."

Since 1989, Liberia has seen two lengthy, bloody, and horrific civil wars. The first one alone is estimated to have killed one out of every 17 people living there.

Though the country has been without war for over a decade now, the conflicts did untold damage to their infrastructure and social structure.

Raine said it can be difficult for people to adhere to basic Ebola preventions like hand-washing, since running water and soap are scarce, and proper hand-washing techniques are typically not taught by Liberian parents.

The country is hardly new to her. After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan with a degree in International Development, Raine was accepted to an internship in Kenya with Samaritan's Purse.

In 2008, she accepted a job doing water and sanitation projects in Liberia, where she has been living ever since.

"There's still a lot of work to be done so, I can't honestly say how long I'll be here. I don't know, but definitely when Ebola ends, and hopefully that will be soon, I'm not going to come home right away," she said.

For more information and to make a donation, visit the Samaritan’s Purse website.

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