Mbandaka (Agenzia Fides) - In Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a major campaign is underway to raise awareness and prevent the Ebola virus which exploded on May 8 in the northwestern province of Equateur (see Fides 22/5/2018).
The government and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are leading the charge, but some of the most effective work is done by the local community and Church leaders. In the archdiocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, for instance, sacraments such as baptisms and anointing ceremonies have been suspended to avert the risk of transmitting Ebola.
"Ebola is real", stressed community leader at an impromptu gathering near a marketplace. "Don’t play games with it, and don’t listen to rumours and lies being spread around that it is a fairy-tale, an international conspiracy, or as a result of witchcraft".
In local schools in Mbandaka, teachers hammer home the message too, leading children through a special Ebola, Go away! song and making hand-washing and temperature-taking mandatory before class.
Talking to people on the city’s streets, it is evident that many take the dangers posed by the outbreak extremely seriously, but others disregard the risks, while some are in denial about the outbreak or say they believe news of it has been planted as some kind of Western plot.
Moreover, many still flock to traditional healers or witch doctors like Papa Nganga, believing Ebola to be a product of witchcraft.
In a statement released through the local press, Nganga said: "What I need right now is for the NGOs and the health ministry to stop spending money and bring me all the Ebola patients. My ancestors are empowering me to heal anyone in two days".
This is the ninth episode since the first case of Ebola was discovered in 1976. Since May 8, 58 cases have been registered. 27 Ebola cases have been confirmed, including 27 deaths so far, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (AP) (Agenzia Fides, 13/6/2018)