Tag Archive for: DRC

Eastern DRC Ebola Outbreak

Photo MONUSCO/Alain Coulibaly

What is Ebola?

The World Health Organization (WHO) website offers the following Key Facts:

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rainforests. The 2014–2016 outbreak in West Africa involved major urban areas as well as rural ones.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, infection prevention and control practices, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe and dignified burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralize the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.


When did the Eastern DRC outbreak begin?

The government of the DRC officially reported the Eastern DRC Ebola virus outbreak (the country’s tenth) on the 1st of August 2018 –  just after the declaration that another outbreak, in Equateur province (in the country’s northwest), had successfully been contained and was ended. The successful containment of that outbreak was a remarkable public health victory.

At the time when the outbreak was declared, it was noted that “it is believed that the index case died in early May” – considerably before the outbreak was officially announced – and that “the delay in reporting of further sporadic deaths in the community since then may be associated with a strike among healthcare workers in the affected area.”

 

Why has this outbreak been so difficult to contain?

The provinces of Nord Kivu and Ituri, where the outbreak is centred, have been suffering for years from poverty, conflict and instability. This complicates efforts to contain the Ebola epidemic in several ways:

  • Fighting Ebola requires that health workers be able to access communities – some have been or are very difficult to access because of the threat or reality of violence. For example, violence in Beni severely disrupted the Ebola response for several days in September – and some rural communities are very hard to reach because of the danger of militia attacks. Read here, here, here and here to get a sense of the challenges.
  • It also requires that community members trust health workers so that the health workers can offer proper prevention and care – that’s also more difficult to ensure in a conflict zone where trust of authorities can be weak. This means that in some areas, people aren’t bringing relatives with Ebola for treatment – and contacts are avoiding the response teams, so not being vaccinated.
  • People who are accustomed to fleeing violence can sometimes also seek to flee when Ebola strikes – potentially carrying the disease with them.
  • The decision of the country’s electoral commission to delay voting in Beni and Butembo has led to the targeting of Ebola centres and workers. Some people who had been waiting for test results fled, potentially carrying the disease with them; the violence has also made it impossible for the response teams to carry out vaccinations and search for contacts.  The electoral commission stated that it was postponing the vote in those areas because of the Ebola epidemic. The cities are, however, also opposition centres, and some people feel that Ebola was used as an excuse to disenfranchise them. There is, therefore, increased distrust of the Ebola response teams.

There are some good summary explanations from Al Jazeera

How many people are affected?

As of 5 April, according to the DRC’s Ministry of Health;

  • 1117 cases were involved, of which 1051 were confirmed and 66 suspected.
  • there had been 702 deaths
  • 339 people had been cured
  • 53,613 people had been vaccinated

This makes it the second-largest outbreak in recorded history, behind the West African outbreak in 2014-2016.

One thing that is concerning is that by this point in an outbreak, one would hope to see declining numbers of new cases – but March 2019 had the highest number of new cases since the outbreak began.

There are also significant concerns that the outbreak will spread. South Sudan, Rwanda, northern Uganda and the area of the DRC just south of Nord Kivu – areas close to the outbreak – are all also areas with complex situations. There are also fears that the virus could become endemic in the Nord Kivu/Ituri area.

To stay up to date with the situation as it develops, we’d recommend following @MinSanteRDC and @HelenBranswell on Twitter. The Ministry account also gives you access to a daily podcast on Ebola and the response, provided for local communities.

 

Are there signs of hope?

Yes. While there have been no official statements on the success rate of the trial use of vaccines to contain the epidemic (and while there are concerns about the ‘ring vaccination’ strategy that has been at the centre of the vaccination response), it’s clear that the vaccines are having a positive impact. Indeed, the Minister of Health at one point stated that without the vaccines, the DRC might have been looking at 10,000 cases by now.

Similarly, new treatment techniques are enabling more people to survive – including one of the first babies to survive Ebola. One report states that those who received the trial medications had a survival rate of 63%, as against an 80% mortality rate for those without the medications.

The dedication, courage and skill of the people working to contain the epidemic is extraordinary. Read some of their stories:

 

How can we pray?

The Congo Church Association has asked people to pray for:

  • health professionals caring for the sick in treatment centres
  • safe access to affected communities by medical teams – this region is classed a ‘red zone’ due to repeated violent attacks by militia groups, mainly thought to be the ADF. Give thanks for their courage and dedication in the face of ongoing danger and pray for protection.
  • ongoing health education in schools, churches, markets, via radio programmes and posters: pray that the message would get through, and cultural practices and beliefs and fear would not hinder the prevention and treatment of Ebola
  • children – for effective psychosocial and emotional care for those affected or orphaned (UNICEF); for orphans to be taken into foster families and not to be stigmatised
  • containment of the virus, and protection from major outbreaks in the big cities, especially Beni, Butembo and Bunia, and in neighbouring countries of Uganda, South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Please also pray for the stability of the region generally. And please give thanks for the scientists whose work has enabled life-saving advances to be made in vaccines and treatment.

Image – Meeting of MONUSCO with hospital staff in Beni, Nord Kivu. Photo: MONUSCO/Alain Coulibaly, used with permission under Creative Commons License.

Supporting Refugees Locally, Short Notes: 25 June to 1 July 2017

In this week’s prayer email:

  • Supporting Refugees Locally
  • Short Notes:

    • Grenfell Tower
    • International Widows’ Day
    • Democratic Republic of Congo
    • South Sudan and Uganda
    • Thanksgivings

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.” Matthew 10:29

This week’s Revised Common Lectionary reading from Genesis contains the story of Hagar and Ismael. Hagar’s human story – a slave given by her mistress as a slave-wife, rejected, and banished in a way that could put her and her child at risk of death in the wilderness – is a harrowing one of powerlessness, humiliation and loss. But in the eyes of God, she and her son are precious – and God both promises to protect them and does so.

Pray that all who have suffered injustice and been cast out may know the truth of God’s care for all God’s creation. And pray that we may be agents through whom God works to protect the vulnerable and rejected.
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Supporting Refugees Locally

“What can we do?”

This is the question we’re often asked with relation to support for refugees. Joanna Schüder, our Churches Refugee Networking Officer, is visiting with local groups that are supporting refugees – and is writing up some of their stories to show different approaches that individuals and groups can take.

The first of the stories – that of the Faringdon Syrian Refugee Group – is attached. We hope you find it interesting and inspiring.

Please pray for all who are already offering practical, prayer and emotional support to refugees. Pray that as a country we recognise the gifts that refugees have brought and continue to bring to our culture. And pray that as churches we work to offer support that witnesses to God’s love.

A Prayer for Refugee Week

Wondrous God,
Lord of all the earth,
Who can begin to comprehend your generosity!
You created humanity
In your image and likeness,
Gave us the abundance of creation
And when we had gone astray,
You sent your Son
That all who believe in Him should have eternal life.
Through Christ you have reconciled
All things on heaven and earth to yourself.
We come together now
From many different pasts.
Grant that in our dealings with each other,
We may recognise the image of God in each person,
Reflect your love,
And rejoice in the diversity of gifts you have given.
And make, we ask,
Our shared future on this earth that you have given us
One that honours you
And reflects your perfect Kingdom.
We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Short Notes

  • Grenfell TowerWe continue to pray for healing and justice in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This week we pray additionally for all who have been evacuated from buildings that have the same cladding as Grenfell Tower; for the emergency services workers who continue to operate under deeply painful and stressful circumstances; and for wisdom for those charged with creating and monitoring fire safety regulations.If you are looking for written prayers for Grenfell Tower, you might wish to use the Moderators of the United Reformed Church’s General Assembly’s prayer, or perhaps  prayer points from people ministering in the area; the prayer from the London District Chairs of the Methodist Church (scroll down); or Bishop David Thomson’s prayer.
  • International Widows’ DayIn many countries and cultures, widowhood – especially among families that are already economically poor – can bring a loss of rights. As these stories show, this in turn can create vulnerability to ill-treatment and impoverishment both for widows and for their dependent families. While it’s hard to get accurate statistics for widows, UN Women estimates that there are 285 million widows worldwide of whom 115 million live in ‘deep poverty’.For this reason, the UN has designated 23 June as International Widows’ Day. You can read more about the day and the issues that widows face here.  You can read here about some widows fleeing conflict as refugees who are, with the help of others, making a life for themselves and their families. And you can read here the amazing story of how Afghan widows, despite opposition and under constant threat, have created their own safe zone, a ‘City of Women’.Please pray this weekend that widows will receive comfort and consolation when they are grieving, receive or retain the rights they need to protect themselves and their families, and have every opportunity for abundant life after loss. Pray especially for widows from conflict situations, who often face displacement and/or violence directed at them at the same time as they are dealing with the loss of their spouse.
  • Democratic Republic of Congo

    The Catholic Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) released this week a report on the brutal conflict between the country’s government and local militias in the DRC’s Kasai region. The report, which states that at least 3,383 people have been killed in the conflict, also speaks of mass graves, villages completely destroyed, hundreds of schools lost, and thousands of private dwellings destroyed. The UN also notes 600 cases of gender-based violence since August 2016.The conflict has displaced an estimated 1.3 million people, the majority of them internally, though some 30,000 have fled to Angola. There are also concerns that the regional conflict will  make it difficult to organise national elections, which are due to be held some time this year.On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus a resolution which “calls on the High Commissioner to appoint a team of international experts to investigate ‘alleged human rights violations and abuses, and violations of international humanitarian law in the Kasai regions.'”  The Congolese government agreed to cooperate with the investigation.  An update is to be presented in March 2018 with a final report to come in June.Please give thanks that an investigation has been mandated. Pray that civilians in the Kasai region will find safety, peace and security; that the governments and militias will cease crimes against civilians and turn towards peace; that the UN investigation will proceed peacefully, safely, and efficaciously; and that the DRC will be able to make preparations for genuinely free and fair elections.
  • South Sudan and UgandaIncreased humanitarian assistance in South Sudan means that this week the country was officially declared no longer to have any areas of famine. But the severity of food insecurity in some areas has increased, and the numbers of people who remain ‘food insecure’ are the highest ever. Please give thanks for the work of humanitarian agencies and programmes; pray that assistance will reach all who are hungry; and pray for peace and stability that will enable people to grow or to access the food that they need.A delegation from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa, the ecumenical Council of Churches of South Sudan, and Ugandan church leaders visited South Sudanese refugees in Uganda last week. Members of the delegation were moved to tears by what they saw and heard – and also expressed their admiration for the Ugandan government’s work to accept and integrate refugees within their country.  In response to the refugees’ call to act for peace, CAPA is inviting members of the Council of Churches of South Sudan to Lusaka next month to formulate a new church-led peace plan.While Uganda has been welcoming, it is a relatively small country hosting over 1.2 million refugees, and it has struggled to ensure that those it is hosting have access to the support they need. The ‘Refugee Solidarity Summit’ held by the UN in Kampala this week was designed to raise greater international support for refugee work within the country. The conference had a target of $2 billion in pledges; the total raised came to $358 milion. The EU, Germany and the UK led the pledges, and the UN Secretary General, pointing out that conferences never raise their targets, expressed satisfaction with the result as a start. Pray that the pledged funds are delivered in timely fashion and used effectively – and that more funding is forthcoming.
  • Thanksgivings

    • That a US judge has temporarily halted the deportation of Iraqi immigrants, primarily Chaldean Christians, who lawyers have argued face genuine risks of persecution if returned to Iraq. Pray for wisdom for the judge and peace of mind for the Iraqi immigrants and their families.
    • That Sweden has committed legally to being carbon neutral by 2045. Pray this inspires others to deepen their commitments to act on climate.
    • For the many Refugee Week events in our area. Pray that they inspire more and more people to appreciate refugees’ gifts.

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Don’t forget to sign up for our sponsored walk … or to sponsor those who are walking!
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