UMC Hospital Partners to Contain Spread of Monkeypox

United Methodist Bishop Gabriel Yemba Unda prays for a sick person at Tunda General Hospital in Congo. Source: United Methodist News

Despite the devastation caused by the sequential pandemics of Ebola, meningitis, and now COVID-19, the Democratic Republic of Congo has begun bracing for another major public health crisis: monkeypox.

The first case of the highly infectious virus was detected in the village of Tunda last December. (According to the World Health Organization, the monkeypox virus causes an illness with symptoms similar to, but less severe than, smallpox. The incubation period for monkeypox is usually six to 13 days, but can range from five to 21 days.)

Tunda is home to the where the first American United Methodist Church missionaries settled in 1922 and the seat of the East Congo Conference of the UMC.

Urged by the local bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gabriel Yemba Unda of East Congo Episcopal Area, congregations have been gearing up to combat the virus and spread public health information to help keep communities safe.

“The church will not sit back and watch this epidemic,” Unda said. “I ask for the involvement of all to help put an end to this epidemic that is raging in Tunda.”

As of February 17, 269 cases have been recorded and 28 people have died.

Provincial Minister of Health, Dr. Kibungi Mutanga Jr. expressed hope at the prospects of containing the outbreak and providing treatment of infect individuals.

“We are very happy because since the disease was identified, we are experiencing a decline in cases; the curve is falling,” Mutanga said. “The concern we have at this time is the rapid spread of the disease. (There have been) seven cases in the city of Kindu (and) four new cases in the territory of Kailo.”

Cases of monkeypox are not uncommon in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Chadrack Simba Kaluma, an epidemiologist at the Ministry of Public Health, said, that “for the last three years, we have had cases of monkeypox in almost all provinces.”

In a national speech, the President of the DRC President Felix-Antoine Tshisekedi said, “In addition to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ebola epidemic, our country has been severely affected by other health emergencies. This is particularly true of the meningitis epidemic in Tshopo Province and the monkeypox epidemic recently declared in Maniema.”

Springing into action the United Methodist Global Board of Ministries and located own Tunda Regional Hospital (own by UMC) have been partnering to both treat patients and continued the virus spread.

Bishop Unda feeling encouraged remarked, “We have known Ebola; the coronavirus is here, and now it is the monkeypox epidemic. We must scrupulously observe the control measures as recommended by the health authorities.” 

“We have worked hard and celebrated the end of the Ebola virus disease,” Unda said. “Together, we will end this new epidemic by the grace of God.”

Source: United Methodist News