Christian aid charity Samaritan's Purse is to open a treatment centre in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help battle an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus there.
Now in its seventh month, the outbreak has been described as the second worst ever, with the World Health Organization warning that fighting around the disease hotspots of Beni and Butembo risks undoing progress in combating it. Of the 608 people thought to have been infected, 368 have died, and there has been a sharp upsurge in the number of cases during the last few weeks. Tension and rioting around DRC's presidential election has seen treatment centres hit and vaccination and tracing programmes affected.
Samaritan's Purse has maintained a presence in the country for the last eight years. It has constructed five isolation centres and provided infection protection and control training for 15 local health centres.
The new 20-bed treatment centre, which can be expanded to 60 beds if needed, was flown out to the DRC in November. A 21-member disaster assistance response team left for the DRC on December 26 and additional staff have since arrived in the country, Samaritan's Purse said.
Megan Vitek, its international health unit programme manager, said Samaritan's Purse had been working in the northeast region of the DRC months before the first Ebola cases on community awareness campaigns and that teams were helping to educate people on Ebola symptoms and control.
'The Lord put us there months before for a reason – to be able to love and care for this community in the midst of a deadly epidemic,' she said.
'Please pray for our team as they work tirelessly to set up this treatment centre and fight this disease with every patient they touch.'