The Ebola outbreak in western Africa has claimed at least 932 lives as of August 4, according to the WHO, and it shows no sign of abating. Health professionals working on the frontline of the epidemic are some of the most vulnerable to contracting the disease -- and they are often religious and missionary workers.
Miguel Pajares, a Spanish priest who tested positive for Ebola at the beginning of August, told Efe he felt "abandoned" in the midst of the crisis and wished Spain would do more to support those suffering.
"Here we are abandoned and they're not taking care of us," Pajares told Efe. "We want to go to Spain and for them to treat us as people, as God orders."
The cost of sending health workers and humanitarian support can be immense, though, as NBC News points out. The question for independent organizations often becomes one of staying or leaving when the conditions become exceptionally dangerous for their volunteers. Samaritan's Purse and SIM are two affiliated Christian missionary organizations that have each had workers contract the deadly virus and have had to ask themselves that question.
Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs for Samaritan's Purse, told NBC the organization would not abandon its clinics in Liberia, though operations would be reduced for the time being.
"We have doctors, we have nurses there. We have staff there who have Ebola. We are not leaving them. We are not evacuating. We are curtailing our operations so we can be effective and appropriate for what is going on right now."
Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is another faith-based humanitarian group working to stem the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia. CRS health program manager Meredith Dyson told CRS that keeping hospitals and treatment facilities running is crucial.
“There is no vaccine and no cure, but health care workers can bring down the fever, rehydrate patients, and control the bleeding. The earlier a patient gets these kinds of supportive treatments, the better their chances of surviving and returning home to their families.”
These religious workers risked, and in some cases lost, their lives serving those in areas affected by the Ebola virus. Their work, perhaps, can be seen as a testament to their faith:
Nshamdze was the director of St. Joseph’s Catholic Hospital in Liberia and a member of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God for 23 years. He contracted the Ebola virus on July 29 and died on August 2.
Writebol is an American missionary who served in Liberia as a hygienist at an Ebola treatment facility. Writebol was serving under SIM USA, a Christian missionary organization, and she is currently receiving treatment at Emory University Hospital.
Brother Miguel Pajares
Pajares is a Spanish priest who worked in Liberia treating Ebola patients through the San Juan de Dios hospital order, a Catholic humanitarian organization. He is currently in isolation at the San Jose de Monrovia Hospital along with two other missionaries who contracted the virus. Spain announced on Wednesday that it will send a medically-equipped jet to Liberia to bring Pajares home to be treated at a hospital in Madrid.
Dr. Kent Brantly
Brantly is a physician with Samaritan's Purse, a Christian missionary organization, and was serving in Liberia when he contracted the Ebola virus. Brantly was completing his post-residency in Liberia before joining the Ebola medical response team. He is currently receiving treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Sister Chantal Pascaline
Pascaline belonged to the same Catholic order as Miguel Pajares and was working in Liberia when she contracted the Ebola virus. She died on August 9 in the Hospital San Jose de Monrovia despite receiving care from a volunteer nurse. She was originally from the Congo.
Dr. Sacra is an American health worker who traveled to Liberia in August to serve obstetrics patients at a mission hospital that also houses an Ebola isolation unit. Sacra's work has been sponsored by SIM USA, the same missionary organization that sponsored Nancy Writebol. Sacra is 51 years old and originally from Massachusetts.
UPDATE: Brother Miguel Pajares died on August 12 in Spain where he had been flown back from Liberia to receive treatment.