Congo churches react to cholera epidemic
Five months after a cholera epidemic was declared in the South Kivu Province in Democratic Republic of Congo, United Methodists there continue to help with prevention efforts.
Cholera is an infectious disease usually spread through contaminated water. It causes severe diarrhea and dehydration. According to a report by the Provincial Division of Health in South Kivu, there were more than 13,300 cases in the South Kivu Province and 57 deaths since the outbreak began in August 2017, said Dr. Claude Bahizire.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been more than 24,000 suspected cholera cases and more than 500 deaths in Democratic Republic of Congo in 2017.
The epidemic also has affected The United Methodist Church, since 430 members were infected with cholera in the districts of Fizi and Uvira in November and December, said Dr. Claude Watukalusu, health supervisor in the Kivu Annual Conference.
The Congolese government, through its Ministry of Health, has made efforts to fight the epidemic, asking national partners to intervene in prevention. Still, five months later, the epidemic persists in Bukavu, Uvira, Fizi and Minova, said Justin Shamavu, chief of the Office of Health Information to the Provincial Division of Health in South Kivu.
Watukalusu said The United Methodist Church needs to focus on prevention because there are no health structures currently in place to assist those affected by cholera.
The Rev. Dumas Balaganire, district superintendent in Uvira, said that since November, the church has initiated a group of volunteers to distribute Aquatabs (water purification tablets) in areas where the population was drinking unsafe water.
He said pastors continue to be the first communicators involved in the fight against this disease by stressing hand-washing and urging members who are sick to get to a hospital or treatment center quickly.
“They are all involved in the fight against this disease, (urging) faithful to wash their hands each time and not to keep a sick person who is already affected by this cholera epidemic at home,” Balaganire said.
Balaganire said it is time for the church to “launch a call to any man or body to help the church in this part of the Eastern Congo episcopal region in the preventive awareness and care of this epidemic of cholera in South Kivu, which affects most of our members.”
Kituka Lolonga is the communicator of the Kivu Annual Conference. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.