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By Phileas Jusu - United Methodist News Service
Sierra Leone's two main faith groups — Christians and Muslims — have formed an alliance to join the fight against Ebola amid increasing infection and death rates from the epidemic in the country.
The Religious Leaders Task Force on Ebola, chaired by United Methodist Bishop John K. Yambasu, was launched July 11 in Freetown and the group’s first regional training took place July 16 in Bo. A solidarity visit to Kailahun, the district that has suffered the most from the outbreak since May, is planned.
The United Methodist Health Center in Manjama, near Bo City, was quarantined July 4 following the deaths of two Ebola-infected children who were found at the center.
Church life also has changed in recent months. United Methodists scaled down their activities countrywide, including the cancellation of two main annual events — pastors' retreat and children's camp.
Latest figures from Sierra Leone’s health ministry, often referred to as “conservative,” show more than 100 deaths among a population of six million, with most occurring in the easterm Kenema and Kailahun districts through which the epidemic entered the country from neighbouring Guinea.
Bo District Medical Officer Dr. Alhaji Turay said the authority of religious leaders is an important factor in convincing people to take the epidemic seriously.