There's good news from Kisantu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
But it's not something that has happened; rather, it's something that hasn't.
The seventeen Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur living in Kisantu, 65 miles southwest of the capital Kinshasa, were expecting the worst as the coronavirus pandemic marched over the world. They've watched as Brazil, with roughly the same climate, has soared to 4 million confirmed cases and over 125,000 deaths.
But in the DRC, things have turned out differently.
"The government," says Sister Emily Mullen, a nurse and head of the Diocesan Office of Health Ministry. "It really took things seriously. The government's quick action was the major factor. They quickly closed the schools, shut businesses. Our politicians, they're all wearing masks. They've just been doing everything they're supposed to do."
To date, Kinshasha, a city of eight to 10 million people, has recorded only several thousand infections. On some days now, no new infections are reported. And in Kisantu, since the pandemic began, only seven or eight people have been infected, with only half needing hospitalization.
In addition to strong leadership from the government, Sister Emily says the DRC's mortality rates have been low in part because such a large percentage of the population is young and thus more resilient in the face of the virus, and because with few exceptions, the country doesn't have nursing homes. The elderly infirm live with their families and thus are not congregated together where infection can quickly spread.
But while illness has been held at bay, education has taken a hit. The schools, including the Notre Dame schools attended by 1,500 girls and boys, have been closed since March and are reopening only now. Also interrupted was the construction of the Sisters' convent which is replacing the previous convent that burned to the ground in September of last year.
Through these twin difficulties - the fire and then the closures and anxiety brought on by the pandemic, Sister Emily says the Sisters have remained strong. "St. Julie encourages us to keep going," she says, "She certainly had her setbacks. But she'd tell us to maintain our confidence. And to keep smiling."
Published in SNDdeN Ohio Province 2020 Annual Report