Mercy Ships delays aid to west Africa amid ebola scare

LINDALE (KYTX) -The Ebola virus in west Africa is still not under control, and as more people continue to get infected, volunteer organizations are pulling their people out to safety. Now the east Texas non-profit Mercy Ships will delaying it's trip to west Africa too.

CBS 19's Katiera Winfrey explains what is expected to happen as far as Mercy Ship aid if doctors don't get the outbreak under control.

Patients in Africa are invited onto mercy ships to receive free surgical medical care. Mercy ships planned to head to Guinea earlier this summer but when Ebola broke out there, the new plan was to head to Benin, which borders Nigeria. After the Nigerian outbreak the Benin trip was delayed. So, until it's proven  safe for the crew to head to that bordering country, they'll stay docked far away.

The deadly Ebola virus is continuing to take lives in the west African countries of Guinea, Sierre Leon, Liberia, and now Nigeria.

"The safety of our crew and the safety of our patients are paramount and we take that very seriously," said Director of Organization Development for Mercy Ships Andrew Clark.

He said Benin borders the Ebola stricken Nigeria. So to keep the crew safe -- the ship is staying docked in the Canary Islands off the northwest coast of Africa.

"We need to find ways protect them from an outbreak on the ship so that's why we need to be very careful about where we go with our ship," he said.

Mercy Ships representative Michelle Bullington said, if the virus continues to spread, and the crew doesn't go back to west Africa, they will still be able to help.

"We're going to continue to serve in Africa, there's more than 50 countries on the continent and only four are affected."

Because of the devastation of the virus, medical workers and resources have become scarce. So Mercy Ships has vowed to send supplies.

West Africa is an area Mercy Ships often visits. In the past, cases of Ebola was isolated to the rural areas, but with better road systems and traveling capabilities the virus is spreading fast.

"We're forbidding our crews from traveling to the four affected countries and if anyone has been in one of those affected countries they are not allowed on board for 21 days with is the incubation period," said Bullington.

Mercy Ships representatives are optimistic that they'll be allowed back, but as they wait, their hearts are with Africa.

The Mercy Ships crew will know by the end of the month if it'll be safe for them to go to Benin, or if they will again have to change plans and go somewhere else.

So far, there hasn't been any reported cases of Ebola in Benin, but because Nigeria's border is porous, it's common for Mercy Ship patients to travel from afar for medical attention. So even if one person with Ebola makes it on board, that could cause major problems.


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