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Joining the global fight against Ebola

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — The Ebola outbreak in Liberia has hit home, quite literally, for Grand Forks’ Loseni Bility.

The 28-year-old, who moved to Grand Forks 10 years ago as part of a resettlement program, is one of about 200 Liberians in the area. He last visited his hometown of Barkedu, Liberia, in September 2013.

When he said his goodbyes and returned to the U.S., he didn’t think it would be the last time he would see 10 of his family members.

This July, Bility received a phone call from a relative and learned that the Ebola outbreak that began in March in neighboring Guinea had spread to Barkedu, and 20 people in Bility’s hometown quickly contracted it.

“Everybody was panicking in the town because of how everyone was dying,” he said.

Since that time, Bility said, he constantly fears that he will continue to hear more bad news.

But he and other Africans in Grand Forks are trying to help.

Members of the nonprofit United African Community they’re raising awareness of Ebola, and sending money and supplies home to help those fighting the epidemic.

One of the group’s major priorities is helping to educate Africans back home about the nature of the disease.

George Massaquoi, who moved to Grand Forks from Liberia six years ago and is president of the Grand Forks Liberian Community, said he tries to emphasize how Ebola is spread.

Ebola can be contracted only through contact with bodily fluids, which makes it easier to contain than an airborne virus.

Massaquoi said this is important knowledge because many African cultural practices, such as hand-washing the bodies of the dead and caring for one’s own sick, involve bodily contact and have perhaps exacerbated the spread of Ebola.

“Ebola is a very difficult disease to deal with,” said Reginald Tarr, former UAC president.