Liberians fill churches to pray for deliverance from Ebola
By Clair MacDougall
MONROVIA Aug 10 (Reuters) - Liberians packed churches in the capital Monrovia on Sunday to seek solace from an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus, defying official warnings to avoid public gatherings to try to contain an epidemic that has killed nearly 1,000 people in West Africa.
With its creaking healthcare system completely overrun, Liberia declared a state of emergency last week to tackle the highly contagious and incurable disease, which has also stricken neighbouring Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
People still flocked to sing and pray in churches in the ramshackle ocean-front capital, many of them comparing Ebola to the brutal civil war that ravaged the country between 1989 and 2003, killing nearly a quarter of a million people.
"Everyone is so afraid," said Martee Jones Seator at Saint Peter's Lutheran Church. "Ebola is not going to shake our faith in any way ... because we've been through difficult times."
The World Health Organization (WHO) has said that the world's worst outbreak of Ebola will likely continue for months, as the region's healthcare systems struggle to cope, and it has appealed for funding and emergency medical staff.
With the disease now in four African countries - following the death in Nigeria last month of a U.S. citizen who arrived from Liberia - the WHO on Friday classified the epidemic as an international health emergency.
A WHO medical ethics committee is due to discuss next week the use of experimental drugs in tackling the outbreak after two U.S. aid workers appeared to show some improvement after being treated with ZMapp, a drug developed by California-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical.
British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said on Sunday a clinical trial of another experimental vaccine was due to start shortly. But even if it is fast-tracked, the new treatment would not be ready for deployment before next year. Continued...