Liberian students raise money for Ebola victims

By Onize Ohikere
ohikereon@mnstate.edu

More than 4000 deaths have been recorded internationally. The numbers are rising, and so is the panic.
As the Ebola epidemic spreads, people are realizing that any effort to help will not be futile.
For junior Jambara Qualah, the drive to help runs deep. In 1995, Qualah and her family left Liberia for the United States during the Liberian civil war.
With more than 2000 deaths from Ebola, Liberia is still home to many of Qualah’s relatives. She believes that if things were handled differently, the virus may not have reached so many.
“I got mad at the government officials because they were told about it and told to take precautions, and I feel like they didn’t,” she said. “What they had to do was take care of the first few people that had it.”
Nat Walker, a Liberian correspondent for a U.K. based peace project, conceded with Qualah.
“The government reacted slowly,” Walker said. “It appeared to expect the international community to do for Liberia what it should have done for its people during the early stage of the crisis.”
Qualah feels that the lack of hygiene and proper education in the country are other factors contributing to the rapid spread of the disease.With the help of three friends, she decided to do whatever she could to help.
“We made a Facebook page called ‘Stop Ebola Foundation,’” Qualah said. “Our idea was to raise money and get sanitary items, cleaning materials and vitamins.”
Jeneba Sheriff, another member of the group who has relatives in Liberia, said it is the right thing to do.
“God says love your neighbor as yourself,” she said. “If I was in that situation, I would want someone to do the same for me.”
Qualah explained the project is still in the planning stages. They plan to send all donations either through some of their relatives back home or through a shipping company.
Qualah has also supported other events that work toward the eradication of Ebola. In August, a Liberian women’s kickball team in Fargo organized a barbecue to raise money to help curtail the disease in Liberia.
“I helped to make one of the food items and spread the word about the event,” Qualah said.
The United States has felt the wrath of the epidemic beginning with Thomas Duncan, a Liberian who was the first to die of Ebola in this country. Since then, two nurses who took care of him at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas have been diagnosed with the disease.
Political science professor Dr. Andrew Conteh is originally from Sierra Leone. He said that international migration is a major contributor to the spread of the disease.
“What countries have to do is take the necessary steps to ensure that individuals coming from those areas are properly monitored,” Conteh said.
The Customs and Border Protection Agency has started fever screenings at the international airports in Chicago, Atlanta, Virginia and New York for travelers arriving from West African countries.
“It will take time, but it’s for our own protection,” Qualah said.
Despite feelings of hopelessness regarding an end to the disease, the West African country of Nigeria is now on its way to being officially considered “Ebola-free.” The last reported case of Ebola in the country was Sept. 8.   The World Health Organization has given it until Oct. 20 before it can be officially free of the disease.
“I feel like if one country can do it, there’s no excuse for the others,” Qualah said. “The government officials in other countries also have to be serious and tackle it.”
The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sent researchers to Nigeria to study how the country was able to control the disease.
As the battle against Ebola continues, Qualah encourages others to do something about it.
“No matter where you are in life, how you feel, what you’re going through, just pray and support because it has become a worldwide issue,” she said. “There are no excuses now.”

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