The Democratic Republic of the Congo has felt the bitter sting of the Ebola virus, and with the help of Christian nonprofit World Relief, 300 churches in the country are fighting back.
Director of humanitarian and disaster response at World Relief, Charles Franzen, talked with the Christian Post about the work happening in the Congo to create awareness of the infectious and dangerous virus.
“Through sermons and training with leadership councils and committees in the churches, Ebola messages are being spread across congregations,” Franzen said.
The churches are located in North Kivu, the Djugu territory, and Ituri Province, where the situation is most dire. Franzen shared that nearly 1,800 people have died in the area with more than 2,500 infected.
“…[B]ut the major problem in halting the disease is that medical personnel need to be able to trace every single contact that an infected person has had during his or her infective period,” he said.
People who have been in contact with the disease are put into quarantine until the danger is over or they start to show symptoms, in which case they are then treated.
But not only is finding all of those people difficult, relief workers are also facing disruptions between factions and tribes in the region.
“It is not then easy for us to trace all the known contacts of an infected person ‘behind the lines,’ so to speak because the danger of becoming a casualty is too great,” Franzen explained.
“Many medical personnel have been beaten, and a few have been killed, and some Ebola centers have been ransacked and destroyed by local people who believe that Ebola is an invention of the West, and that all of this is just fakery which is being used and perpetuated by unscrupulous people to make money off the Western powers and NGOs,” he continued.
The Ebola outbreak has become rampant in the DRC with the World Health Organization declaring the epidemic an official Public Health Emergency of International Concern.
In a press release, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, general Director of WHO, said, “It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with the DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system.”
Samaritan’s Purse has also increased their relief to the DRC, establishing an 18-bed treatment center in Komanda in the northeast part of the country. The center was flown to Africa by cargo plane and more than 40 medical and non-medical staff operate within it on the ground. More than 60 Congolese staff also assist.
“When I see my fellow Congolese people suffering from Ebola, I am sad, but it challenges me to help them so that one day they will recover and be strong,” Sarah Ngaka, one of the local staff, said.
American churches can assist in caring for the DRC, as well. Franzen encouraged churches to support nonprofits like World Relief and the Samaritan’s Purse.
“One of the best ways for the American church to fight Ebola in the DRC is to provide assistance to those who are providing care and treatment…like World Relief, who are working hard on advocacy and awareness, countering rumors circulating, training in primary case management, and making sure that local churches have hand washing stations and whose leadership are committed to getting out messages about Ebola, identification and response to their congregations.”