Days may have passed that you did not travel to Yambuku. A small place in a hidden corner of the immense country of Congo or Zaïre. There is a small settlement of missionaries from Belgium. They started their work in 1935 and the settlement has grown since. Nuns came from Belgium and settled there in a small convent. Priests came and went into the surrounding area to talk about the Gospel. Medical work started. The year 1976 came and during this year teacher Mabalo falls ill. He is treated by Masangaya who leads the work in the small hospital. The treatment is in vain for Mabalo passes away. The day after the funeral more people fall ill and more.
Slowly and surely it dawns on the people that something is amiss. What is happening? This is beyond the scope of regular illnesses. More and more people are informed about the spreading fateful disease. The medical workers take every possible precaution to stay healthy themselves.
This is the start of a chain of events that leads to the conclusion the ebola has hit the community of Yambuku and it is spreading its ugly wings.
William T. Close who for 17 years had been a medical doctor in Congo/Zaire (even working for president Mobutu) follows in detail the spread of the disease and the attempts within and outside the country to find out what is happening. It is a breathtaking detailed and chronological account of personal and scientific endeavours to find a cure for the patients, to find and eliminate a source, to find comfort in a jungle of death. The people work in different worlds not just from Africa, but also from Europa and northern America. Also locally two worlds meet: the medical work at Yambuku and the local traditions of spiritual leaders.
Many people feature, but the focus is mainly on Yambuku and its people. The workers who pass away, those who survive, but just, some evacuated to Belgium to recover. People do not want to leave, but help others who reach the limit of their life.
William T. Close, who has a cameo appearance in the book, has done a great job with this book. It is a monument for all those people who gave everything they had for others.
William T. Close – Yambuku – 1991