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What Aid Workers Can Learn from Vulnerable People

The significance of faith in healing and resilience

The Ebola virus epidemic devastated West Africa from 2013 until 2016. One of the Ebola epidemic survivors is Dr. Ada Ignoh, a Nigerian physician who survived Ebola after an outbreak in Lagos. She used different ways to find emotional comfort and support from her religion when she was hospitalized in an Ebola clinic. Her testimony serves as an inspiration for humanitarian aid workers all over the world facing diverse challenges.

Aid Workers Can Learn From Vulnerable People

As a doctor at the First Consultants Hospital, Ada Igonoh took care of Patrick Sawyer in 2014. This particular patient was also infamously known as ‘the man who brought Ebola to Nigeria’. Twelve caretakers who were directly involved with Sawyer got infected with the virus. Ada was one of them. In a blog, she has extensively written about how she experienced having Ebola and the ways she used religion to cope with the crippling disease.

‘I soon started experiencing joint and muscle aches and a sore throat, which I quickly attributed to stress and anxiety,’ she wrote. ‘I decided to take malaria tablets. I also started taking antibiotics for the sore throat. The first couple of temperature readings were normal. Every day I would attempt to recall the period Patrick Sawyer was on admission — just how much direct and indirect contact did I have with him? I reassured myself that the contact with him was quite minimal. I completed the anti-malarial drugs, but the aches and pains persisted. I had loss of appetite and felt exhausted.’

Ada prayed, had conversations with her pastor, formed a communion with other women in the clinic, read the bible and listened to messages of faith and healing.  ‘I continued listening to my healing messages. They gave me life. I literally played them hours on end.’  Ada described how she was tested in her faith. When a friend succumbed to Ebola, it was a great blow to her, and her faith was ‘greatly shaken as a result’. But instead of turning away from her religion, she started a Bible study group with the other female patients. By forming relationships with fellow victims, she promoted her sense of social rightfulness. ‘My communion sessions with the other women were very special moments for us all,’ she writes. Through active engagement in religion, Ada built a strong emotional resilience.

Ada's story is not unique. Several studies have shown the significance of faith in healing and resilience and the different functions it can accomplish. Humanitarian aid workers, often have a vigorous and unilateral focus on the medical angle of a disease. However, the role of religion should not be underestimated. Not only because of Ada's experience, but also because studies indicate that religious beliefs and practices can have a positive influence on prevention and treatment of diseases.

Therefore, humanitarian aid organizations should respond to a crisis like Ebola with greater attention to the potentially powerful role that religion plays. It is important to support patients in meeting their religious and spiritual needs, as well as their physical needs; it makes the whole treatment and recovery process complete and fulfilling.

We’re proud to serve all humanitarian aid workers who are willing to help those in need. Either suffering from a deadly virus like Ebola or any other disease in the world. We regularly arrange travel for compassionate, humanitarian and faith-based organizations dedicated to helping those in dire need of help. Never hesitate to contact us through our quick address locator should you have any questions.

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