On Wednesday, July 17th, the World Health Organization (WHO) released a statement declaring the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) “a public health emergency of international concern.” Over 1700 people have died since the outbreak first began just west of Beni nearly one year ago.
After a case was confirmed in the densely populated city of Goma, a city of nearly two million inhabitants located on the border with Rwanda, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated the outbreak reached a point of “concerning geographic expansion.” However, the WHO urged that trade and travel to Congo should remain open to avoid economic consequences and protect the livelihoods of people in the region.
Since the beginning, our Congo Initiative community and the people of Beni have been at the center of the outbreak. Our team in Beni has responded with remarkable resilience, quickly mobilizing and finding ways to assist in the response efforts. Our Bethesda Counseling Center continues to provide counseling and training for health care workers, grief and trauma counseling for those who have lost loved ones. Our education institutions provide teaching on health education and Ebola prevention. A number of UCBC alumni are working with DRC’s health ministry and organizations like ALIMA to help contain the virus. The entire CI-UCBC community continues to adhere to protocols mandated by the WHO to reduce exposure and minimize risk. And this week, they received approval to get all CI staff and UCBC students vaccinated.
We are discouraged by the increase in the number of new cases reported over the past few weeks in Beni. The tenuous and fragile security situation continues to hamper response efforts. We continue to encourage deeper engagement with the local community actors and stakeholders in order to build trust and prevent attacks on response centers.
A few weeks ago, in early June, CI’s co-founder, Dr. Paul Robinson, traveled to Beni and spent a week with our team. He writes:
“Over and over, I could only marvel at how our people and the wider community dealt with the paradox of pain and hope, suffering and healing, challenges, and faith. I was deeply moved by their faith, resilience, commitment, and resolve. I was reminded by the challenges and risks that are the daily experience of our team and our students. I was moved by their determination to be present despite the daily realities and to believe that change was not only possible but that they would be a part of bringing change and transformation into being.
I cannot overstate this. So many of our people in Beni — and beyond — are at the crux of forces that are totally beyond them. They are in a vulnerable position. But they are faithful, continuing to believe in and work for Congo’s transformation. The road ahead will continue to be arduous and difficult. I came away though, not with despair, but hope. And it is not blind optimism; rather, it is hope grounded in the commitment of so many who continually and daily choose to be the change for which they desperately long. And we have the privilege to accompany them in our prayers, our lives, and with our gifts.”
For questions or further information, please contact CI’s Director of Communications, Justin Hubbard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-806-7297.