Monday, December 10, 2007

pray for the folks in bundibugyo

Please join me in praying for the World Harvest Mission team in the Bundibugyo district of western Uganda. I spent a brief two days with them in early October (here's my post from that visit). Last night I received a message from one of my friends from that visit. Amy has returned to the US since I was there, but she's stayed in close touch with what's going on there.

You may have heard news, as I did, that there had been an outbreak of the Ebola virus in Uganda. In the midst of my travels and minimal internet access, I never had a chance to check further into that report. However, Amy's message brought that report slamming into my very recently re-acquired American life.

Bundibugyo is the location of the outbreak. The World Harvest Mission's team leaders in Bundibugyo, Drs. Scott and Jennifer Myhre, as well as a short term staff person and physician assistant, Scott Will, are working in the thick of the outbreak. The district has few doctors and the Myhres serve as doctors supplementing the staffing of the government medical providers. Scott Will had worked in Bundibugyo previously. When we flew to Bundi for our information-gathering visit, he was with us, fresh from his flight from the States and excited to be returning for another short term stint in Bundi.

I didn't know much about Ebola prior to today, but today's lesson has explained that it's a virus mostly confined to Africa. Previously, four different strains had been identified. Early indications are that the Bundibugyo strain is a new one. So far it's never been found to be airborne, and it's transferred by contact with body fluids and dead bodies of infected people. Early indications are such common-seeming symptoms as fevers, vomiting, and diarrhea, but the disease progresses to internal and external bleeding. The death rate of those infected is typically very high--50-90%--but so far the numbers in Bundibugyo have been closer to 25%. From what I've read, it sounds like one of the greatest dangers is to people caring for the sick before they know what they're dealing with and know to use extreme measures of protection. The virus resurfaced earlier this year in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but I think that was more in the western part of DRC. Bundibugyo borders Congo on the east.

All members of the World Harvest Mission team, including the Myhre's kids, have been evacuated to Kampala except for the two Scotts and Jennifer.

One of the greatest costs of this crisis has been the death of Dr. Jonah Kule. We met him while we were in Bundibugyo, though I didn't interview him. The Myhre's described him as their best friend in Uganda. He was working as a medical officer, and the Myhres/WHM helped fund him through medical school. His return to his hometown in remote Bundibugyo to practice medicine was significant, as he could have made much more money practicing medicine elsewhere. The Myhre's described him as a man of great integrity.

Please pray for physical protection for Scott and Jennifer and for Scott Will and the rest of the health care providers. Please pray for the Myhre family as they are separated from each other. Pray for the WHM team as they grieve the losses and live in the intense uncertainty of this time. Please pray for the spread of the virus to be stopped, for the patients who are already ill, for people grieving lost family and friends, that Dr. Jonah's death will somehow bring glory to God's name.

You will find more information on Scott and Jennifer's blog and on Scott Will's blog.

I didn't take many photos in Bundibugyo because I was so busy collecting information, but here are some of the photos Layton took.

the airstrip facing the Rwenzori mountains
the excitement generated by the plane's arrival

one of the buildings of the Nyahuka Health Center, in the town where the WHM team is based. the isolation wards for Ebola patients are at the Bundibugyo town (the district and its main town have the same name) hospital and another hospital.
Drs. Scott and Jennifer Myhre

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