As of today, August 25, UMVIM will no longer provide insurance to any volunteer or team going into any and all countries with active Ebola cases. According to the World Health Organization, in the last 5 months there have been 1,350 deaths due to the Ebola virus, which continues to spread in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, with 221 new cases reported just between August 17-19, and there are now cases as far south as Congo.
For several reasons, it has been difficult to control the spread of Ebola, including the increased disbelief of the people living in this region, and the lack of compliance with the advice of health workers and government sanctions, as they are in contradiction to many of their cultural practices. Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has imposed a nationwide curfew and quarantined communities, and many have retaliated with violence.
It is difficult to determine what will happen with the Ebola Outbreak and where it might spread. If there are any active cases in in the country prior to your departure time, we recommend rescheduling for a later date. When the time is right to plan mission travel into these countries again, here are a few suggestions of what to discuss with your team as you prepare to leave:
1. Discuss with your team what you would do if you were quarantined and whether the potential risk is worth what you can possibly wait and do later in 2015 after this disease has been controlled.
2. Discuss with your partners in West Africa what precautions are being made regarding the Ebola Outbreak for persons in your destination country and those coming into the country.
3. When you do go, please register with the U.S. State Department's STEP program and contact the Embassy directly in your destination country to let them know of your plans to bring a group of volunteers there. Provide them with where you will be and what you will be doing. Ask them if they have any advice regarding your travel there and what type of assistance could they provide if you encountered any problems.
4. Leave information with the church and someone who has connections perhaps with your US senator in case you were to need them to assist you.
5. Continue to check the CDC Website about the Ebola Outbreak and your destination country.
Additional reading on how the The United Methodist Church is actively attempting to address the outbreak can be found here.
If you have any questions or unsure of whether to travel to a country in West Africa, please contact your Jurisdictional Coordinator:
North Central Jurisdiction
Lorna Jost, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Nicholas, email@example.com
South Central Jurisdiction
Audrey Phelps, firstname.lastname@example.org
Paulette West, email@example.com
Heather Wilson, firstname.lastname@example.org