After a year of Ebola in the DRC, faith leaders have a key role to play

(Photo: UNICEF/UN0311511/Tremeau)

Hundreds of faith leaders are being trained in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help prevent the spread of Ebola as the outbreak continues to bring heartache and uncertainty to the country.

Over 1,700 people have died since the outbreak began on 1 August 2018.  It is the second largest outbreak of Ebola in history and was recently declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

The outbreak comes as a double blow to the country that has already been ravaged by years of conflict.  The fighting has not abated during the Ebola outbreak and has only served to hamper the response efforts. 

Christian development agency Tearfund is working through local churches to help tackle the outbreak, with at least 482 faith leaders so far trained to provide information and education on how to spot the symptoms of Ebola, where to seek medical help, the importance of washing hands, and guidelines on how to handle dead bodies.

It has also bolstered health centres in Ebola hotspots by providing new triage units, toilets, incinerators and clean water supplies.

Hebdavi Muhindo, Tearfund's Programmes Director for the DRC, has not lost hope that the outbreak will soon come to an end. 

"We remain committed to the communities we are working with to address ongoing needs both during and after this outbreak has ended," he said.

"Even without Ebola, the challenges facing people here can seem insurmountable. Now, it's more important than ever that we build up trust and work together.

"Our hope is that this outbreak of Ebola will be halted soon. We strongly believe that faith leaders have an important role to play in ending this epidemic and we will continue to work with them to bring information, resources and comfort to those people who are hardest hit by Ebola." 

Coinciding with the first anniversary of the Ebola outbreak in the DRC, the UK Government called on the international community to provide more financial support and work with the UN, WHO and the DRC government in tackling the disease. 

The UK has so far funded the vaccination of over 180,000 people in the DRC, safe burials, Ebola screening at the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, and the training of health workers in Uganda and Rwanda. 

However, it said that "money alone will not fight this disease" and that communities needed better support, combined with strengthened health services and improved preparedness.

International Development Secretary Alok Sharma said: "Ebola has already taken far too many lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Shockingly it has wiped out entire families and, a year after this outbreak started, it is showing no sign of slowing down.

"The UK has led the way in tackling this killer disease and we can be proud of our support to create a life-saving Ebola vaccine which has inoculated 180,000 people so far.

"Diseases like Ebola have no respect for borders. This could be spread beyond DRC. It is essential that the rest of the international community steps up to help. If we don't act now, many thousands more lives could be lost." 

Tearfund is asking that people pray for the following: 

  • Pray for those people who are infected with Ebola or who have lost loved ones. Also pray for those who have survived, as they try to get their lives back on track.
  • Thank God for the courage of our staff and partners who are working in a challenging context, helping communities prevent the spread of the disease.
  • Pray for peace in the DRC as violent clashes hamper efforts to tackle Ebola.