Skip links

Coronavirus in Africa: Lessons from the Church and the Ebola experience

Ms. Masika Semida, the last Ebola patient in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was discharged from hospital on March 3rd, bringing to an end the outbreak which hit the DRC in August 2018, and which killed more than 2,260 people. It has been three weeks with no new case reported, and this could be a victory for health workers on the frontlines of combating the epidemic, in extremely difficult circumstances. In North Kivu province, rebels attacked and killed Ebola response workers and razed to the ground treatment centers, vehicles and equipment. Between 2014 and 2016, West Africa experienced one of the worst Ebola outbreaks in history, with over 11,000 deaths reported. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea were at the epicenter of the outbreak.

In both West Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Church played a critical role in providing care for patients and containing the spread of the Ebola virus. Church agencies such as Caritas worked tirelessly to train health care workers, and to provide the necessary medical and hygiene kits. The extensive network for the Church made it possible to pass important information on to communities, and to build trust between the communities and health workers. Health officials would visit churches on Sundays, and after the homily, they would be given the opportunity to speak with congregants about the Ebola outbreak and convey critical advice about hygiene practices.

Besides the physical needs, the Church also prayed for and with those infected and their families, which was perhaps the most important weapon in the arsenal that stakeholders had at their disposal to wage war against Ebola. A lasting image that exemplifies this special role of the Church was the 2018 photo of Fr. Lucien Ambunga, kneeling in a quarantined area to receive the blessing of his Archbishop, Fridolin Ambongo. Father Lucien contracted the disease while taking care of an Ebola-patient in a rural community in Itipo, in the Diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro. He was given a hero’s welcome in his parish after receiving a clean bill of health, one month after he tested positive for Ebola.

Exit Ebola, enter the Coronavirus. Both are highly contagious and have no known cure. Compared to the rest of the world, Africa has so far recorded relatively few number of cases of the Coronavirus. With 128 reported cases in 12 countries as of this moment, it is rare to see anyone wearing a mask on the streets of Nairobi or Abuja. Nevertheless, governments are taking note of the evolving situation and preparing accordingly.

Read more at Catholic World Report

Share with Friends: