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What virus….?

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It might seem to many of us that there is only one big threat to our health at the moment, but in Congo people face multiple dangers and severe disease threats on a regular basis. This picture taken at Bukiringi Heath Centre shows the roof blown off by a violent storm on Tuesday 10th March, with nurse-in-charge Tauka standing forlornly in front.

This building serves as the maternity ward, so there were many women with their new babies inside at the time, fortunately the ceiling stayed intact giving them protection from the torrential downpour and amazingly no-one was injured. The first building that was put up in the 1980s was being reconstructed so was partly destroyed as well, and there was severe damage to both Catholic and Anglican primary and secondary schools in Bukiringi.

In a country like Congo, managing the Covid epidemic will be particularly hard. Putting the country in lockdown will not be an option when 70% of people work in the informal sector – if they don’t get out to their fields or sell a few goods in the market, they don’t have food for the family that day. There is no social protection from the government, but the resilience comes from the incredible support that they give to one another. But this informal caring can’t be systematic, so inevitably there will be millions of very poor and vulnerable people who will be at significant risk of the health and economic consequences of the virus. So do hold them in your thoughts and prayers.

But when the world is moving into lockdown over Corona virus and ‘facing its biggest public health emergency in generations’, there is a rare piece of good viral news from Congo. They have now had a month free from any new cases being reported at the end of the country’s worst ever Ebola epidemic, with cumulative 3,444 cases and 2,264 deaths. With two thirds of infected people dying from Ebola, this was a public health emergency beyond others.

Ebola cases in Democratic Republic of Congo, May 2018 – March 2020

Despite the incredible response by Congolese health workers and humanitarian agencies, the epidemic has taken over a year and a half to get under control because of the extreme insecurity around Beni and Butembo, with Ebola treatment centres deliberately targeted and epidemiologists unable to safely trace all contacts. But at least something to celebrate in the midst of the depressing news of the fast-spreading Covid-19 pandemic.

Thanks for your on-going support.  With your regular gifts we hope to be able to respond compassionately to these and other crises. If you would ever like to respond to a particular need (such as getting the roof back on the maternity in Bukiringi or helping our health teams to stock up on protective supplies to protect them against Covid-19) please do let us know!

And for any French speakers, the latest advice (in Congo) to protect yourself!:

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