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End of Ebola outbreak declared in Congo

The screen of a smartphone communicates a message of comfort from East Congo Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba. The text, delivered as part of the church’s UMCONNECT platform, is translated from French to English in this photo illustration. Original photo by Philippe Kituka Lolonga, UMNS.

An end has been declared to the Ebola epidemic that has plagued the province of Equator since May. In a statement, Dr. Oly Ilunga, Congo's Minister of Public Health,said no new confirmed cases of the Ebola virus have been recorded in the province since June 6.

“After a 42-day observation period, with no new confirmed cases recorded, and in accordance with international health regulations, I declare from this day, July 24, 2018, the end of the epidemic of the disease to Ebola virus in Equator Province, Democratic Republic of Congo,” Ilunga said.

The Rev. Henri Boshi Butuli, superintendent of the Ikela District, said United Methodists here are rejoicing the news of the end of Ebola.

The United Methodist Church in eastern Congo worked closely with conference communication offices to send messages to the public to encourage people to protect themselves from the disease and to help organize mass awareness sessions in local churches.

Using the UMCONNECT platform, United Methodist Communications and the Global Health Unit of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries worked alongside a network of 20 newly trained Congo communicators to develop text messages for the church community. 

Butuli said 80 percent of people in Ikela received the messages to their phones from communicators, and in places where there was not a network connection, the conference sent people to raise awareness.

“To protect ourselves against Ebola, we instructed our faithful and our surrounding (community) to never touch any dead beast or to consume it; after any exit, wash your hands with soap or ash; always be careful, because Ebola ravages everyone: intellectual, illiterate, poor, rich, Christians, Muslims …

“Never fail, because we only live once, such is the message of prevention sent by communicators to prevent people with this disease via the UMCONNECT text messaging system.”

The last confirmed Ebola patient was released from the Bikoro treatment center on June 12, the health minister said.

After verification and consolidation of the databases, the National Coordination counted 54 cases of Ebola, including 33 deaths and 21 survivors who came together in the National Association of Ebola Winners (people who were cured).

Butuli, whose ecclesiastical district was most affected, thanked East Congo Bishop Gabriel Unda Yemba for his quick involvement in the framework of the awareness and also The United Methodist Church’s partner agencies.

It’s important that the awareness campaigns continue, Butuli said, so that people are reminded to keep up with the elementary care needed to prevent another outbreak.

“The (United) Methodist Church has saved the lives of people by raising awareness about the fight against this disease.”

Kituka Lolonga is a communicator in the Kivu Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown at (615) 742-5470 or ne[email protected]. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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