DR Congo (MNN) — The second Ebola outbreak of the year in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is proving deadlier than the first.
DRC’s health ministry has identified 102 probable or confirmed Ebola cases since the start of August. 59 of those people have died.
John Woodberry, manager of disaster response with Mission Aviation Fellowship, says, “The Ebola outbreak became news kind of at the beginning of the month but [it] started before that. Ebola is a word that brings a lot of fear with it — both the unknown and just the challenging way people suffer from that disease.
“The reality is it is a very scary disease but it only transmits by someone who has very specific symptoms, so it only transmits through blood or bodily secretion contact. Typical mitigation is basically isolating infected people, practicing very tight medical protocols, and not shaking hands, and practicing good hygiene. But if someone does not have the symptoms, they are not contagious.”
MAF uses flight services to assist communities in East DRC’s remote and isolated areas. An Ebola outbreak was recently identified south of where the ministry is based — just a 30-minute flight away.
“MAF has been more involved in flying [specimens for] testing to see if people have Ebola, and also flying a medical team to an area to try to prevent its expansion further,” Woodberry explains.
“When we fly into areas that are near an Ebola outbreak for a medical team or to do some sample testing to verify or be a part of helping the situation, we have very tight protocols that we do follow in the handling of passengers and… a biomedical hazard type of flight.”
There was also a temporary Ebola scare in the local community where MAF is based. “A little boy who died and had some blood coming out of his mouth in that death had to be checked because he had the symptoms, but it could be malaria or something else. But you don’t know, so you test and check. If there was Ebola here, it would affect very much so how we live.” Fortunately, in this case, the Ebola test was negative.
While the last local case was just a scare, MAF’s Jon Cadd says they are trying to get ahead of any Ebola developments by providing a space for containment.
“We’ve dedicated one of our houses that’s in an isolated area. It was destroyed during the war…but we are getting it prepared and ready for the possibility of people that could have the disease. They want to isolate them from other people. So we’re fixing the place up, painting it, [and] putting in a water supply.”
Woodberry adds, “All the costs associated for this come out of MAF’s disaster response surge fund, which supporters have given to over the years and enable us to do this work and respond when there is a crisis globally.”
Health officials in DRC have approved four Ebola treatments at Ebola treatment centers. There are also vaccines available.
However, Woodberry points out, “There’s not a lot of [vaccines]…. They use them for health workers or to mitigate family members or people who have had close contact. So that’s a promising development but it’s still a very scary death…. We’re paying attention if this starts expanding or if it’s showing signs of containment.”
As a Christian ministry, MAF pilots and staff serve in the name of Jesus. When an Ebola outbreak poses a great risk to communities and responders, MAF is there with aviation service and hope.
“When you’re responding to Ebola, it’s all about saving lives. God has given us the skills and abilities to meet the immediate needs of people. So I guess being people that they can see Christ in and serving those who are suffering is what we do during this time, and we’re an active part of the Church reaching out and the mission medical community here. It’s a time to serve and love people in a very difficult time.”
Cadd shares how even an Ebola education session presented an opportunity to represent the Gospel.
“Yesterday, John [Woodberry] and I went down to a chiefs and leaders meeting…and I had gone to the chief and showed him a little PowerPoint presentation on Ebola and he asked me to come back to the council and show the people. So we did that and we were able to answer a lot of questions and educate them on how Ebola starts and what they can do to prevent it and it was just a really great time. And being able to end in prayer for those leaders and just remind them of what Jesus has done for us and His amazing grace to us was really a wonderful time for us.”
There are a few ways you can get involved. First, consider supporting MAF’s Disaster Response Fund so they are continually prepared to help when crises like this arise.
Also, please commit to praying for this Ebola outbreak in the DRC. Woodberry says, “You can pray…for those with Ebola. You can pray for their healing. You can pray for the containment of the disease.”
Pray also that those infected with Ebola, the first responders, and communities in East DRC would experience spiritual revival and come to know Christ as their Savior.
(Header photo courtesy of Mission Aviation Fellowship)