Volunteering in Liberia: Understanding the Risks

In the previous article, we discussed the ‘To Do List’.  I’m still working through all of the paperwork. My renewed passport came back and is now on it’s way to the Liberian Consulate in D.C. for my visa.  I’ve filled out all of the appropriate forms for my Liberian Nursing Permit. I’ve faxed, emailed and made copies of everything I can think of. I think I’m done with paperwork!  Now it’s just a waiting game to see if my Visa and Nursing permit come back without any issues.

Understanding the Risks

I knew that heading into Liberia would expose me to a myriad of diseases that I’m unaccustomed to. From Malaria, Dengue Fever, Yellow Fever, Typhoid, etc. there are certain risks one takes when traveling to a developing country.  This is not totally new to me as I’ve previously been vaccinated for many of these due to my personal travels in Vietnam, and South and Central America.

What I didn’t know was that an outbreak of the Ebola Virus would be spreading in the wake of my arrival.

I have to be honest…hearing about the outbreak of this highly contagious hemorrhagic fever, gave me a moment of pause. I had to seriously weigh the options on wether or not to follow though with my commitment to C3 to volunteer. Dr. Robert Montana, founder of C3 personally emailed me to update me on the situation and informed me that “You should be aware that there is NO CRITICAL CARE in Liberia even in the capital and air evac may be impossible if you are suspected with the disease.” and gave me the opportunity to back out of the trip if I so chose.

I’ve spent the past week researching the disease and considering my options. As of April 4th there were two confirmed and several un-confirmed cases of Ebola in Monrovia (the capital in which I’ll be arriving). There were no current reported or suspected cases in Robertsport where I’ll be volunteering. The bordering country of Guinea is where the outbreak is currently the worst with a few cases in both Liberia and the border country of Sierra Leone. The Liberian Ministry of Health is currently being assisted by a multitude of agencies in efforts to confine the spread. UNICEF, MSW/Doctors without Borders, WHO and multiple NGO’s are involved in the containment efforts.

Based on the current information available…

I’ve decided to follow through with my commitment to C3, baring any drastic changes in the current situation. I knew when I volunteered that there was a possibility of contracting a deadly disease; the fact that there is a current outbreak will just make me more vigilant in my personal protection and care of others.

In light of the information I’ve received, my packing list has changed slightly to include: masks, gloves, goggles, and a supply of hand sanitizer.