Ebola precautions

Ebola precautions
14-09-2018

The posters on the walls at Scripture Union are new. Ebola, until now, has been a west African problem and if the news headlines are to be believed has been more or less contained. That may be generally true but there is still a lot of caution being exercised. Public health in Rwanda has been implemented more effectively than in some sub-Saharan countries. While medical facilities across Rwanda are basic, medicines are available and most of the population is covered by a state health insurance scheme. Crucially, the Rwandan government was quick to spot the danger of AIDS after the 1994 genocide and civil war. Drugs were made available to infected women and the problem has not been allowed to run rampant the way it has in Uganda and some other countries. But Ebola is a newer threat.

An outbreak of ebola was identified at the beginning of August in DCR. The WHO have been quick to react and have been vaccinating in the area. One of the problems they face is the 50 or so armed groups that prevent access to some areas. The Rwandans, for their part, have set up checks at the border to pick up anyone crossing who might be infected.

Scripture Union serves many communities and for some years now has been taking in and processing refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Today there are a handful of women with small children who receive food and lodging while their papers are processed. Within the past year the accommodation block has been full of families, itinerant and with their worldly belongings crammed into one or two rucksacks and flight cases. Eventually a bus will arrive and take the refugees on the start of a journey to the US where they will hopefully be able to rebuild their lives.

As the rich west is discovering, refugees are on the move across the world and it doesn't look like the problem is going to go away any time soon. In the US and Europe, these migrants are seen a a problem. Some try to find solutions. Others see walls and barbed wire as the solution to keeping 'them' away from 'us'. For both, the core issue is how much, if anything to share with these people. In East Central Africa, where wealth is less divisive, there is an openness to refugees which is sometimes hard to find in Europe.

Besides food and shelter the refugees are given a medical screening. Two rooms which have served as accommodation for visitors have been converted into makeshift surgeries. At the moment the staff have little to do but sit on the veranda but this is only a brief respite from the regular traffic. They have been busy and no doubt will be again.

East Central Africa doesn't often make the headlines in Europe. There is little here to compete with the uncertainty of Brexit or international finance. But at ground level, this part of the world has not enjoyed any degree of stability for decades and possibly longer. DRC is large and possibly ungovernable, at least given its current politics. In the east, rebel militias are the main cause of this instability and have pushed people across the border into Rwanda and safety. Those that make it to staging camps such as Scripture Union at least have a future of some kind to look forward to. That future may be just as uncertain as that of the US, but then, the future always was.