An update from Congo Initiative, one of Blacknall’s Deep Common Journey Partners
The Ebola outbreak is wreaking havoc on lives and livelihoods in Beni Territory and other parts of eastern Congo. Its destructiveness has been relentless, causing much grief and trauma. Just a month ago, it seemed as if the deadly virus was close to being resolved in Beni.
Unfortunately, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in new cases in Beni, along with one confirmed case last week in Goma. The World Health Organization (WHO) responded by declared the outbreak an “international health concern.” Since the outbreak was declared August 1, 2018, just one year ago, more than 1700 people have died. We are encouraged that today, the World Health Organization is mobilizing $300 million to scale up support of the response efforts.
But it is with heavy hearts that we must report the Ebola crisis has now touched our community deeply. A relative and high school student staying in the household of CI staff members (two of UCBC’s first alumni) recently contracted Ebola and passed-away. In addition, two additional students at UCBC staying in the same home tested positive for Ebola on Friday. The students received a vaccination upon first signs of Ebola in the home and doctors believe this quick action will enable them to overcome the virus and heal completely.
We are heartbroken over the loss of yet another victim to Ebola, a young man with much of his life ahead of him. We pray for his family and friends and asking God to bring them his peace and comfort. We ask for your support and prayers for the two students currently admitted to Ebola treatment centers and that God’s presence will be felt as they fight the disease.
As a result of this development, ALL members of the Congo Initiative and UCBC community in Beni (students and staff) have received or are in the process of receiving vaccinations.
Despite this difficult news, we want our global partners and friends to know that our community in Beni is united more than ever. They are strengthened by one another’s presence as together they face this challenge and threat. As students undergo vaccinations, sometimes with fear, they encourage one another, especially through the initial side-effects of nausea and flu-like symptoms. They continue to follow the WHO protocol and prevention methods including increased hand-washing, restriction on greetings, and more.
The realities haven’t stopped the students from finding their purpose and achieving their dreams. It has not slowed their resolve. Students will still complete their exams this week and the graduating class will defend their theses. Meanwhile, UCBC staff are beginning preparations for the annual graduation ceremony on August 3rd. At Congo Initiative, we are absolutely inspired by the dedication of the staff and students as they remain focused during such a challenging time. It reveals their hearts and passion to create positive change in their communities… to write a new story in Congo.
One of the unique things about our global community is our foundational and shared faith in a God who invites us to cry out for help, with confidence that these cries will be heard. Thank you for joining our brothers and sisters in Congo as they lament and plea for an end of the outbreak and for lasting peace. Thank you for standing in solidarity as we pray together and look for signs of hope and relief. As CI President, Dr. David Kasali recently shared, “I see these signs each day as I witness the stories of our community coming together, united, helping one another face the here and now so there will be a better future for tomorrow - no matter what challenges come our way. Together, we believe we can beat this.”