The UMC pioneers sensitization on Ebola in the East of Côte d’Ivoire

Abengourou, 210 Km north-east of Abidjan (Cote d’Ivoire) is far from any of the neighboring countries that have been affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The United Methodist Church in that area didn’t want to wait for a first victim to be declared and took the lead in sensitization efforts among other faith-based organizations.

On March 15, 2015, the Abengourou missionary District of the Cote d’Ivoire United Methodist Church organized an open air gathering at the Jubilé United Methodist Church to talk about the Ebola virus disease (EVD). This wasn’t a closed event as participants came from other Christian denominations. Non-Christian organizations were also resent.

Two black boards placed adjacent to each other and covered with a large white cloth served as the projection screen of the videos and presentation slides. The whole set up was placed on a wooden stage and gave to the sloping compound the aspect of an open air amphitheater.

The Regional Office of the Ministry of Health and the Fight Against HIV/AIDS was represented by two of its officials. Very excited about the opportunity to talk about Ebola, Doctor Kouamé Blaise and Mr. Kouakou Lucien where on time for their first presentation at faith based organization, not to say the Church.

The event kicked off with a prayer said N’zo Salomon, a lay preacher of the host United Methodist Church. “Lord my God, as we are gathered, give us wisdom to understand the story of the Ebola virus disease,” said N’zo on behalf of the Reverend Pastor Séraphin Moudé, the District Superintendent.

After the opening prayer, the 4mn animation, “Ebola: A Poem for the Living”, was projected twice to the audience. The video captured the attention of the children present as well as their parents’.

Soon after projecting the cartoon and explaining UMCOM’s motivation for producing such an innovative communication material on preventing the spread of Ebola, Dr Kouamé took the floor to bring additional details on the threat. Using a slideshow presentation, he talked about the history of the EVD, where it is naturally found and how it can be transmitted to humans. He particularly encouraged the audience to give up eating bush meat which is a potential source of the virus.

“We and our ancestors fed on bush meet without having been infected with the virus.” Dr. Kouamé said. “Today, there is evidence that animals can feed on infected fruits left behind by bats and monkeys which are the most likely natural reservoirs of the Ebola virus.” He added. “Inviting you to abandon bush meat is for your own interest” he concluded.

Mr. Kouakou Lucien, who is the Information Officer at the Regional Office of the Ministry Health and the Fight Against HIV/AIDS in his presentation, highlighted sanitation measures to adopt in order to avoid infection. Using videos, he emphasized on the ten steps of washing hands with water and soap, and said “constant hand washing with clean water and soap is the first line of defense against the Ebola virus disease.”

The audience was satisfied with the time they spent. Talking about the animation, Martine Tchotche, a United Methodist lay preacher, said she is “proud of the United Methodist Church’s commitment to fight against such a deadly, yet invisible enemy.”

Achibah, a lady from The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel said she was “impressed” with the information she learnt. “I thank God to have attended this event because I saw appalling pictures and videos. I should have come with my kids for them to learn too.” She added.

Both Dr Kouamé and Mr. Kouakou praised the United Methodist Church and its initiatives to stop Ebola, acknowledging it’s the first time a faith-based organization organizes such an event on the EVD.

The Abengourou Missionary District has eight Sectors (Circuits) which are planned to be visited to organize other open air sensitization to ensure Ebola does not make its way through the Body of Christ.

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I know such initiatives are held in many other places. Feel free to share your views as comments below and to share other similar stories that have been published or not.

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