Catholic clergy play key role in stopping Ebola

Ebola has such a stigma in the Congo that people are afraid of being inoculated against it.

Health officials face a two-pronged challenge in combating the deadly virus: one, the Congo is a war zone. The other is the virus’s perceived disgrace and people’s fears of the unknown.

To get around these challenges, one local Catholic bishop made a point of being vaccinated in the village where the outbreak was identified so as to encourage others at risk to present themselves to health officials.

Traditional healers have also been trained in Ebola prevention.

Misinformation about the virus is another challenge health officials face. To combat this, the Congo’s health ministry has put out a notice against a social media rumour that says eating onions would guard against Ebola.

“It’s untrue!” the notice says. “Apart from giving you bad breath that might keep people away from you, onions have no protective effect.”

There is also local resistance to health workers who are trying to promote safe burials. These are crucial to containing the virus as it is spread via bodily fluids of those infected, including the dead.

“We are experiencing fear and anger in some communities against Red Cross teams who come to bury the deceased,” says Dr Balla Conde, head of emergency operations with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.


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