The Adventist Development and Relief Agency has appointed an Ebola Response Coordinator in a move that Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders say will help the global denomination and its numerous entities respond to West Africa’s Ebola outbreak.
The agency last week hired Elizabeth Foulkes, who previously worked on the international health team at World Vision US, to serve in the newly-created position for a term lasting at least three months.
Foulkes, who holds a master’s degree in global health from Loma Linda University’s School of Public Health, will coordinate response efforts between the Adventist Church’s Health Ministries Department, ADRA International, ADRA offices throughout West Africa, Loma Linda University and Adventist Health International.
“We want to have a united approach, especially in terms of utilizing the church’s networks in the affected countries,” said David Holdsworth of ADRA’s Emergency Management Unit.
Holdsworth said Foulkes will manage initiatives from various Church entities and update leaders and members through news releases and social media updates.
Foulkes said she entered the field of global health because she wanted to be involved in the Adventist Church’s health work worldwide. She said she has previously worked to pull organizations together, and this new position allows her to do similar work on a larger scale.
“This is a really interesting situation that no agency, including ADRA, has ever faced before,” Foulkes said. “It’s both a learning opportunity as a recent graduate as well as an opportunity to pull different Adventist entities together to work as a team.”
“There are a lot of people working on this, the General Conference and unions and conferences and universities, and I’m really just helping to facilitate all of those efforts,” she added.
The Ebola outbreak this year has infected nearly 18,600 people and taken the lives of more than 6,900 people, according to a December 17 release from the World Health Organization (WHO). Most victims live in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids and tissue of an infected person. Those most at risk are healthcare staff and family members caring for someone infected with the virus, according to the WHO. Case fatalities range from 25 percent to 90 percent depending on the amount of treatment available.
Foulkes said most Ebola people affected by the virus are not those infected with the virus. Ebola also affects citizens who now have limited access to healthcare and food, she said.
One of ADRA’s primary responses to the crisis so far has been providing emergency food rations to those affected. Also, ADRA’s Emergency Management Unit is coordinating with the United Nations Food Programme and seeking educational grants from several governments, including the United States, Germany and Denmark.
Already this year, various Adventist organizations have responded to the crisis with hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplies and equipment.
Donn Gaede, secretary of Adventist Health International, commended ADRA for funding the new position.
“This new hire is another one of ADRA’s contribution’s to the overall effort,” Gaede said.
Dr. Peter Landless, Health Ministries director for the Adventist world church, said, “I’m delighted that ADRA has not succumbed to Ebola fatigue. Adventist Health International, General Conference Health Ministries, Hope for Humanity and ADRA have continued tirelessly to address at least some of the needs in the wake of this huge humanitarian disaster.”
Much of the denomination’s support has focused on two Adventist hospitals in the region—Cooper Adventist Hospital in Liberia and Waterloo Adventist Hospital in Sierra Leone.
Both hospitals were closed temporarily for a quarantine period at various times over the past few months after several Ebola-related deaths. Cooper has reopened and is operating and treating non-Ebola cases. At Waterloo, the federal government made renovations and will soon operate the facility as an Ebola treatment center.
The current Ebola outbreak is the largest in the virus’ 40-year history, health officials said.
Church health officials in August urged leaders and members in West Africa not to travel and refrain from large public gatherings and personal affections such as hugging. The measures were “stringent but necessary,” Landless said.
—Angela Taipe contributed to this story.