From ANN, Dec. 23, 2014:   Elizabeth Foulkes has been appointed coordinator of the Adventist response to the deadly Ebola disease around the world. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) will take the lead as the global denomination and its numerous entities respond to the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa and possible future crises. The agency last week hired Foulkes, who previously worked on the international health team at World Vision, the largest Christian multi-denominational humanitarian organization.

Foulkes earned a master’s degree in global health from the School of Public Health at Loma Linda University. She will coordinate the Ebola activities of the denomination’s health ministries department, Adventist Health International, Loma Linda University, ADRA International, and the ADRA offices throughout West Africa. “We want to have a united approach, especially in terms of utilizing the church’s networks in the affected countries,” said David Holdsworth of ADRA’s Emergency Management Unit.

Foulkes said she entered the field of global health because she wanted to be involved in Adventist health ministries worldwide. She told ANN that she has previously worked to pull organizations together, and this new position allows her to do similar work on a larger scale. “This is a really interesting situation that no agency, including ADRA, has ever faced before,” Foulkes said. “It’s both a learning opportunity as a recent graduate as well as an opportunity to pull different Adventist entities together to work as a team. … There are a lot of people working on this, the General Conference and union and local conferences and universities, and I’m really just helping to facilitate all of those efforts,” she added.

The Ebola outbreak this year has infected nearly 18,600 people and taken the lives of more than 6,900 people, according to a report last week from the World Health Organization (WHO). Most victims live in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Ebola is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids and tissue of an infected person. Those most at risk are health care workers and family members caring for someone infected with the virus, according to the WHO. Case fatalities range from 25 percent to 90 percent depending on the amount of treatment available.

Foulkes said the people affected by the virus are not only those infected with it. Ebola also affects citizens who have less access to health care and food. One of ADRA’s primary responses to the crisis so far has been providing emergency food rations to those affected. ADRA is coordinating with the United Nations Food Programme and seeking educational grants from several governments, including the United States, Germany and Denmark.

Adventist organizations have already responded to the crisis with hundreds of thousands of dollars in supplies and equipment. Donn Gaede, secretary of Adventist Health International, commended ADRA for funding the new position. “This new hire is another one of ADRA’s contribution’s to the overall effort,” Gaede said.

Dr. Peter Landless, health ministries director for the denomination, said, “I’m delighted that ADRA has not succumbed to Ebola fatigue. Adventist [organizations] have continued tirelessly to address at least some of the needs in the wake of this huge humanitarian disaster.”

Much of the denomination’s support has focused on two Adventist hospitals in the region; Cooper Adventist Hospital in Liberia and Waterloo Adventist Hospital in Sierra Leone. Both hospitals were closed temporarily for a quarantine period at various times over the past few months after several Ebola-related deaths. Cooper has reopened and is operating and treating non-Ebola cases. At Waterloo, the Sierra Leone government made renovations and will soon begin operating the facility as an Ebola treatment center.

The current Ebola outbreak is the largest in the virus’ 40-year history, health officials have said. Adventist health ministry leaders in August urged denominational leaders and members in West Africa not to travel and refrain from large public gatherings and personal affections such as hugging. The measures were “stringent but necessary,” Landless said.

The Adventist News Network (ANN) is the official news service of the Adventist denomination. Angela Taipe contributed to the reporting on which this story is based.