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Liberian faith leader in Reno sounds call for help with ebola crisis

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

While the World Health Organization is reporting more than 2,200 deaths from the ebola outbreak in West Africa, Reverend Father Elijah Bobby Washington is stuck in the United States, here in Reno, unable to fly home to Liberia.

Reno Public Radio's Michelle Bliss spoke with Father Bobby to get the latest update on the deteriorating conditions in his home country.

Listen to the extended interview.

Washington leads a Catholic Church in Liberia's capital city of Monrovia. He originally flew to the U.S. for a conference back in June. Since then, he's been checking in with relatives and friends back home to find out how they're faring during this crisis, which has now been confirmed as the largest ebola outbreak in history.

What he's hearing is horrific.

"They have a team that goes around to get the dead bodies to a place and they just burn them," Washington says, "so it's going to hurt. You know, people want to give a decent burial to their family relatives, but they can't do that--they have to bury them in mass graves."

Last week, the World Health Organization reported that the virus is spreading "exponentially" in Liberia with a sharp increase in the country's death toll.

Along with the emotional impacts of this carnage, Washington says that society simply cannot function as people are unable to congregate, which means they cannot gather in common work places, like farms.

"If people are not going to work, the industry of the country is not going to move," Washington explains, "so it's going to hurt an economy and it's going to hurt in the people themselves."

Health officials say the demands of the outbreak have entirely surpassed the Liberian government's ability to respond. About 80 healthcare workers have died there, which has exacerbated the country's previously existing doctor shortage.

While Washington remains stuck in Reno, his goal is to raise awareness and sound a call for help. He says his country needs everything from money to medical support to prayers. 

Michelle Billman is a former news director at KUNR Public Radio.
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