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Locals rally against Ebola outbreak

A crowd raising Ebola awareness crosses First Avenue North on Friday morning in downtown Fargo. David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO – A crowd of about 50 West Africans sang, prayed and raised signs over their heads Friday morning as they sought local help to fight the deadly Ebola virus that’s hit Liberia and has spread to neighboring countries.

“Today is about creating the necessary awareness about the outbreak of Ebola in our country,” said JSaywala Kennedy, one of the rally organizers. “It’s not a problem of only our country, but it’s a global concern.”

The group – which consisted of Liberians, Guineans, Sierra Leoneans and others with relatives still living in Africa – met at the YMCA in downtown Fargo and marched a few blocks to the lawn outside City Hall where they made a plea for help. The group is seeking more protective gear for health care workers in Liberia and other countries, said Tita Smith, another organizer.

The director of Fargo Cass Public Health, Ruth Bachmeier, happened upon the gathering and gave an impromptu speech, expressing a desire to collaborate with the group.

“We need to work together to do what we can as a Fargo community to help you and help your loved ones,” Bachmeier told the crowd.

Smith, 25, said she fears the virus will continue spreading throughout West Africa and possibly elsewhere.

“This is a scary thing,” she said. “People travel every day from different parts of the world, and Ebola could easily come to America. It could easily go anywhere.”

On Friday, the World Health Organization described the outbreak as an international health emergency that poses a risk to other countries. More than 1,700 cases have been reported, including more than 930 deaths, the WHO said in a statement, noting that this is the largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.