The United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries is continuing to be present and respond to the needs in West Africa as health officials try to contain the Ebola outbreak that has infected more than 3,065 people. Denise Honeycutt, who leads the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) – Global Ministries’ humanitarian aid unit – has been in regular contact with Bishop Yambasu of Sierra Leone and Bishop Innis of Liberia.

According to Honeycutt, “We want them to know that UMCOR is with them and responding with urgency to whatever the needs are, to get them through this crisis.”

To date, UMCOR has sent $383,000 in grants to Sierra Leone and Liberia. Funds are supporting tents and construction of isolation units, personal protective equipment, training for health staff, public messaging about Ebola, and safe handling of deceased bodies.

Grants also are providing much-needed healthcare supplies. Whenever possible, funds are being sent to United Methodist health boards to purchase supplies locally. UMCOR executive, Francesco Paganini, says this is the most efficient way to get the United Methodist health boards exactly what is needed as soon as possible.

When medical supplies are not readily available, UMCOR is working with trusted suppliers to provide an inventory list to the health boards. The health boards indicate what they need and how much they need. Because it can take months to ship by sea, UMCOR is shipping by air, though Paganini says the space is increasingly limited and expensive as the Ebola outbreak continues. “We want to make every shipment count and are very intentional about sending high-quality, needed supplies in the correct quantities,” he said.

Bishops Innis and Yambasu are also trying to streamline the process of requesting supplies through UMCOR. In a letter (click here to read) signed by them and Honeycutt, they asked donors to please donate through the International Disaster Response Advance instead of shipping supplies directly. They wrote, “This approach helps ensure the appropriateness, timeliness and quality of materials and avoids inclusion in shipments of used, damaged, out-of-date or otherwise inappropriate items.” This is consistent with UMCOR’s standards and helps relieve pressure in seaports and airports.

United Methodist churches that want to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa are encouraged to:

  • Pray for the people who live under the fear of this disease, the families of those who have died, and the health professionals who are caring for people who have Ebola.
  • Give to UMCOR International Disaster Response, Advance #982450, so that UMCOR can continue to partner with United Methodist health boards and other organizations working to respond to this and other disasters.
  • Raise awareness about Ebola and about the importance, generally, of good healthcare systems and hygiene practices.

Read the full press release here.