North Texas Liberians, some of whose families have been affected by the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, are watching and waiting, afraid to hear from home, as they look for ways to help family, friends and communities.
“Any time you hear that phone ring, and you look on there, and it’s a number from Liberia, my heart goes, ‘Oh, God, please,’ ” said Elizabeth Tubman, an Arlington resident who has lived in the United States for about 20 years. Tubman has three sisters and extended family in Liberia.
An estimated 5,000 people with Liberian ties live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, leaders of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas/Fort Worth said.
The group has set up an emergency appeal for donations on its website
“People are dying every day,” said Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Association of Dallas/Fort Worth. “You don’t know who has the sickness.”
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has been described as one of the largest in history. The disease is suspected in 1,552 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Albert Travell, an Arlington resident with family in Liberia, said he has lost seven relatives.
Travell said he believes that when a niece got sick and died, relatives thought she had malaria and didn’t take precautions when they prepared her body for burial.
Later, six relatives got Ebola. Travell said he doesn’t know how his niece initially contracted the virus.
“It was horrifying,” he said. “I am still in shock about it.”
Travell said that the recovery of Fort Worth-trained Dr. Kent Brantly gives him hope. Brantly was recently discharged from Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital after contracting Ebola.
“Thank God he came out of this virus,” Travell said.
Another American in Liberia, Nancy Writebol, also survived after she was brought to the U.S.
The fight against Ebola in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierre Leone has dominated international headlines for months. Case counts maintained by the CDC and the World Health Organization show Liberia has the highest death toll of all the African countries, at 694 as of Thursday.
Liberia was founded in 1822 by freed U.S. slaves. In 1847, it was declared Africa’s first black republic. The West African country went through about 20 years of war and political unrest that drove many Liberians to build new lives in the United States or Europe.
“It was terrible; a lot of us were displaced,” Tubman said. “A lot of Liberians died.”