A B.C. Interior family nurse practitioner has once again been volunteering in Africa to help communities prepare to respond to Ebola.
“I have been assisting several African nations as part of a coordinated Ebola response from the International Federation of Red Cross, with support from the Government of Canada,” said Patrice Gordon. who lives in the West Chilcotin.
When a person dies of Ebola, the body remains highly infectious so training for safe and dignified burials has been essential.
It is as much about engaging communities and building trust to find ways to of meeting the need to honour the deceased loved one while preventing spread of the virus, as it is about technically doing the burial safely, Gordon said, noting if families and communities are going to alter traditional cultural practices, they have to understand the risks and why it necessary.
“They also have to be central to discussions of adjustments to their traditions that don’t expose anyone to these risks.”
When there was an Ebola outbreak in Uganda in September 2022, the need arose to do some safe burial training in Kenya and Tanzania, two places where the training had not occurred before.
Since November, Gordon has been going back and forth between Tanazania, Canada and Kenya.
She has led a Red Cross team of facilitators from Canada and Liberia to provide specialized training to groups of Red Cross volunteers and Ministry of Health personnel.
Trainees learned how to engage with families and communities who have lost a loved one to Ebola as well as the technical skills of safely working with the full PPE required for exposure to highly infectious disease and performing a safe, dignified burial.
The trainees participated in simulation exercises where they incorporated all components of these processes.
“The enthusiasm and commitment of the trainees and the support of the ministries of health and Red Cross National Societies to help their countries is very inspiring,” Gordon said.
“It’s a privilege to be part of supporting their efforts.”