Mercer professor visits Liberia during Ebola breakout shares his thoughts, concerns on crisis

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – What Mercer Professor Richard Wilson experienced as President of the Liberia baptist Theological Seminary in Liberia was described as a sudden humanitarian and medical crisis.

Wilson’s new role led him to the small town of Paynesville, Liberia. He starts work in January, came back to the United States during the summer for a short break, and returns to the African country on July 27 to hear unexpected news that hinders his travels to and from the country.

“On the day I arrived [back into Liberia], President Johnson closed all of the schools Liberia in response to the Ebola,” says Wilson.

Concerns grew for him, and the staff members of his campus.

“I knew that we had to address the crisis. Not only is it a health crisis, but it becomes a crisis of politics and economics.”

With thousands affected by the virus, Wilson says Liberia’s national and local departments grew weaker by the day. 

He adds schools were closed, leaving millions of children with nothing to do during the day. 

“In addition to the closing of the school, President Johnson Sirleaf requested that businesses reduce their staff to a skeleton,” says Wilson.

In a society, such as Liberia where people are accustomed to warm kisses on the cheek, firm handshakes and hugs, Wilson says many community members became fearful, because a simple greeting could mean a contraction of a deadly virus. 

“Everybody I dealt with was affected by the Ebola crisis: diminished traffic, requirements for a every public place to have a chlorine bath, people avoid touching…[and] taxi cabs are restricted to three passengers in the back seat, as opposed to the normal six in a Liberian taxi.”

During his mission at the university, Wilson learns Kent Brantly, the physician who is currently quarantined at a local hospital in Atlanta, contracted the Ebola virus just three miles away from his home in Liberia. 

“Everybody was on high alert,” Wilson says, “You could immediately see the decrease in the number of people on the street.”

A decreased number of people, means local markets are in jeopardy of losing business. Wilson believes people live in fear and desperation of obtaining the virus, but have no choice but to continue to their normal lives, even though a serious medical crisis runs through the town. 

“There were, unfortunately, heartbreaking stories of people promising an Ebola cure, and they would offer an injection for a certain amount money and they would inject people with tap water.”

The professor adds the myth that circles the Liberian community is “Ebola is plot of Westerners to come to Liberia, and eliminate the weak Liberians.”

This myth gives him more reason to help those who are dealing with the humanitarian effect of the concerning Ebola virus.

“It’s a very sad story, but in the midst of the sad story there are hundreds, if not thousands of West African and aid workers from the west that are willing to take the risk to contain this virus.”

With hope, he adds, “It’s going to get worse before it gets better.”

Mercer University grants Professor Wilson the opportunity to work in Liberia for a year.

Wilson opened a fund to raise money the community named Care for One Hundred.

If you’re interested in donating, you can send monetary gifts to:

Lamberth Memorial Baptist Church
1026 Long’s Store Road
Roxboro, NC 27574

Add Care for One Hundred on the “for” line. 

Categories: Health, Local News

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