DR Congo

MAF responds to Ebola outbreak in DR Congo

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NAMPA, Ida. (September 18, 2007) - Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is working with the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta to fight a deadly Ebola epidemic that has killed at least 150 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), MAF officials said today.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the outbreak and said measures are being taken to contain the spread of the deadly virus. The deaths occurred in the central province of Kasai Occidental, WHO said.

MAF is transporting doctors into extremely remote jungle clinics, where they can treat patients and assess the severity and extent of the crisis.

"The thought at the moment is there are many, many more in the remote villages that are not making it to a hospital or a clinic and are simply dying in remote villages," said John Boyd, MAF vice president for ministry advancement. "At the end of this week, we should have a better idea of the size and scope of the situation, and how we need to mobilize more resources."

Ebola is one of the deadliest pathogens, killing 50 to 80 percent of the people it infects. Because it is highly contagious, health officials in Congo are trying to quarantine anyone with symptoms. There's an ongoing media campaign to educate villagers about the crisis.

Congo's last major Ebola outbreak in Kikwit was in 1995, when 250 people in an area about 250 miles west of the current outbreak died.

The movement of the people in the bush is complicating efforts to quarantine the infected and is causing alarm with medical authorities. The virus is transmitted by direct contact with the body fluids of an infected person or carrier - sometimes infected chimpanzees, gorillas and forest antelopes.

While blood tests are analyzed, the government in Congo (DRC) is asking for more help in dealing with an outbreak that may rival the outbreak of 1995. Part of that help is coming in the form of determining how large the problem is.

The current Ebola crisis, Boyd said, "dovetails very closely with who we are as a Christian ministry. We're prepared to go into this stricken area. The ministry side of it is simply being there to help the 'least of these' and then taking the opportunity to share the Gospel when that arises."

MAF fills a strategic role in ministry by supporting Congolese churches, missionaries and an increasing number of short-term mission teams. The MAF team is committed to supporting the emerging intertribal Christian movement that is moving toward healing and reconciliation, Boyd said.

Other mission groups and humanitarian agencies utilize MAF services to help alleviate the suffering of those displaced by the instability of the DRC. To that end, MAF has earned a reputation of compassionate, evangelistic outreach, Boyd said.

Founded in 1945, MAF serves more than 600 Christian and humanitarian agencies worldwide. It stations some 200 missionary families in the remotest regions of 26 countries on five continents. MAF pilots fly approximately 40,000 flights a year, transporting missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conducting thousands of emergency medical evacuations. The organization also provides telecommunications and distance-learning services, including VSATs, high-frequency radios, e-mail and other wireless systems, in isolated areas.