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Ebola outbreak

by Us (formerly USPG)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To explain about what Ebola is, how it is spread, and how people’s fear and lack of knowledge make it difficult to stop the outbreak spreading.

Preparation and materials



  1. Ask the students: ‘What are you most afraid of?’ (Take some answers from the children.)

    ‘What makes you scared of these things?’ (Again take some answers.)

  2. Explain what Ebola is: it is a disease that is very easy to catch, and it is spreading in countries in West Africa. There is no known cure and many people who catch it do not survive. 

    Ask the children to imagine what it would be like if they knew that this disease was spreading in their own city or town.

  3. One of the reasons that people are so afraid of Ebola is because they have not been taught much about it. They do not know how to avoid catching it. Some people don’t even believe it is real. Because people don’t understand, they are even more afraid, and this fear means that they do things which actually make the situation worse. 

    For example, some people who believe that NO ONE survives Ebola don’t take their family members to hospital if they become ill. In fact, almost half the people who contract the disease do survive, but they get better only if they get good hospital treatment. So, ignorance about how to deal with the illness means that people are more likely to die.

  4. In other cases, some people think that you can catch Ebola from someone who has recovered from the disease. This isn’t true either, but it means that people who survive might lose their jobs. In some cases, they can even lose their families because their family members are too scared to let them come home.

  5. In Liberia, people in one area were very much afraid because an Ebola clinic was set up in their neighbourhood. They raided the clinic to ‘rescue’ people inside, but in the process it is likely that even more people caught Ebola, allowing it to spread further.

    (For senior school students, you could talk about local traditional burial rights – including viewing and touching the body, when it is particularly contagious – as contributing to the spread.)

  6. How do you think people could become less afraid of Ebola, so that fewer people catch it? (Hopefully, the answer ‘To learn more about it’ will come out!)

    Outline what the church and other agencies are doing in West Africa to stem the spread of Ebola.

  7. An additional angle

    Only one person has been diagnosed with Ebola in the UK: William Pooley, a 29 year old volunteer nurse who had been working at a treatment centre in Sierra Leone.

    He is currently being treated in an isolation tent at the Royal Free Hospital in London. The risk of Ebola spreading in the UK is very small.

    Ask the students why they think that is.

    Explain that poverty makes the spread of illnesses much worse. Here are some examples. 

    – In Sierra Leone, health spending stood at $96 (£58) per person in 2012. This compares favourably to Liberia ($66) and Guinea ($32). By comparison, the UK spends $3,648 and the USA $8,895.
    – Sierra Leone has 2.2 doctors for every 100,000 people (2012 figures). Guinea has 10 (2005) and Liberia just 1.4 (2008), both far behind the UK (279) and Switzerland (394).
    – Resources in Sierra Leone and Liberia are drained by malaria treatment. Both had some 1.5 million confirmed and probable cases in 2012, from overall populations of about 6 million and 4 million respectively.
    – Sierra Leone and Liberia have suffered economically because of civil war. Sierra Leone emerged from a decade of conflict in 2002, while long-running hostilities in Liberia ended the following year (statistics from WHO, quoted at

Time for reflection

Let’s be quiet for a moment to think about all those people who are so scared of getting ill that they will not visit their friends or family.

Let’s reflect on what we are scared of.

What could we do to learn more about it, so that we are less afraid because we understand more?

Dear Lord,
we pray for all those who are suffering with Ebola.
We pray for peace for those who are afraid,
healing for those who are ill,
and strength and courage for doctors and nurses who are helping the sick.


‘Lord of all hopefulness’ (Come and Praise, 52)

Logo for Us 

Us (formerly USPG) is working to support the Church in West Africa to combat the spread of Ebola.



Publication date: August 2014   (Vol.16 No.8)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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