Voice of America (Washington, DC)

27 August 2014

West Africa: Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Americans, Ex — Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the U.S. are doing the same.

If you walk down Mills Avenue in the nation's capital, you will see a sign on a front lawn that reads, "Help Action Africa. Send supplies to Sierra Leone." Inside the house, box after box is filled with latex gloves and chlorine bleach, disinfecting wipes, crayons and notebooks for children. All are being sent to Sierra Leone to help in the effort to end the Ebola crisis.

Chris Egbulem, the founder and director of Action Africa, organized the effort. Even though he has lived in the U.S. for years, he hasn't forgotten his past. "I was born on the African continent," he says, "and I continue to remain connected with the people on the mother continent."

Egbulem also helps ordinary Americans connect with countries fighting Ebola. A Lutheran church in the nearby city of Baltimore donated metal school desks to replace the wooden ones contaminated by students suffering from the disease.

Churches raised money to ship the goods. The shipping company scaled back its fee. Egbulem said Americans without connections to Africa contributed as well. "They brought supplies. We have people from Virginia, from far away Maryland. People have responded very powerfully."

The container that Action Africa sent from the port of Baltimore in late August is due to arrive in Sierra Leone in early September. The organization also is sending another shipment of medical supplies to Nigeria.

"We have a group of 25 hospitals that are going to be working with those supplies," Egbulem told VOA, "and most of it too is more at the preventive level, to make sure the kind of outbreak that we see in Liberia and Sierra Leone, doesn't get to that level in Nigeria."

In another part of the U.S., another immigrant from Africa is getting help from his community to assist those in need. Eric Wowoh came to the U.S. as a refugee from Liberia. He has since settled in Lafayette, Louisiana, where he founded Change Action Network, an organization that normally builds schools and provides classroom supplies for Liberian children.

Since the Ebola outbreak in his home country, Wowoh started collecting medical supplies and bottles of chlorine bleach. The World Health Organization recommends that people wash their hands in water that contains chlorine before they enter a building, including their homes. Wowoh explains how a bottle of bleach can help in the fight against Ebola. "This could save a whole household of people against the spread of Ebola," he says. "In Liberia, one of these would be $10, which most families cannot afford. They live on less than a dollar a day."

Americans also are donating soap, water, medical gloves, protective glasses and other supplies that health care workers treating Ebola patients need. Wowoh says, "The people in this area may not be able to go directly to Liberia, but they can do something to help in the process."

Wowoh says these simple donations will help save hundreds of thousands of people. He says his organization's first medical supplies shipment to Liberia will be sent in early September. His plan is to send a shipment with food and medical supplies every month until the deadly Ebola virus is brought under control.

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