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Graham’s Charity sends help to Congo as Ebola cases surpass 600 amid more violence

Samaritan’s Purse staff set up a treatment center in northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo to treat Ebola patients.| Photo: Samaritan’s Purse

By Agencies

DR Congo – Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian relief organisation headed by evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the late Billy Graham is preparing to open a treatment center in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as the Ebola outbreak has now become the second deadliest in history.

According to CNN, 368 deaths have been reported in the outbreak that began on Aug. 1 and another 609 patients are suspected to have been infected. The virus, one of the deadliest in the world, which causes severe headache and hemorrhaging, has a case fatality rate of close to 60 percent.

“At this point people are, feeling very low, they’re very scared. They don’t know whether or not they will make it,” said Adele Bong, who is part of Samaritan’s Purse. “What makes the difference is someone who’s there loving on you, caring for you, just showing the love of Christ. That could be the difference between life and death.”

Samaritan’s Purse announced on Tuesday that its 20-bed treatment center in the northeast DRC will provide “expert and compassionate clinical care for patients suffering with the deadly virus.”

The organization, which assists with disasters around the world, sent a 21-member disaster assistance response team to the African country, where it has operated for eight years, on Dec. 26.

Megan Vitek, program manager for Samaritan’s Purse international health unit, noted that the team in DRC is helping with community awareness campaigns to educate people about the warning signs of Ebola.

“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,” Vitek said.

“Please pray for our team as they work tirelessly to set up this treatment center and fight this disease with every patient they touch.”

Samaritan’s Purse noted that it has learned from the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, which was the deadliest in history and killed over 11,300 people. Members from its 2014 response team helped train the new DCR team members at the group’s facilities in Wilkesboro, North Carolina.

In addition to the virus outbreak in North Kivu province, long-term conflicts there complicate matters further. Fifty armed groups have been carrying out violence that has displaced more than a million people, CNN reported.

The World Health Organization and Samaritan’s Purse warned that this rebel movement and prolonged insecurity are impeding progress and allowing Ebola, along with other dangerous diseases, such as malaria, to spread more quickly. 

The Associated Press reported on Tuesday that hundreds of refugees have crossed into Uganda from the Democratic Republic of Congo in the days since that country’s troubled presidential election, heightening concerns about the possible cross-border spread of Ebola.

U.N. children’s agency UNICEF noted that thousands of children are trapped in armed groups or subjected to sexual violence.

“The crisis is growing increasingly desperate and resources are at breaking point,” said UNICEF Emergencies Director Manuel Fontaine, according to Reuters.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, argued that the mounting crisis in DRC was one of the most forgotten ones of 2018.

“The brutality of the conflict is shocking, the national and international neglect outrageous,” Egeland argued. “I visited Congo this year and have seldom witnessed such a gap between needs and assistance.

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