The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Ebola crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo a “public health emergency of international concern” and warned that the possibility of the outbreak spreading across the region “remains very high.”
This week, the first confirmed case of Ebola was detected in Goma, a city of nearly two million people on the border with Rwanda. Earlier this month, an Ebola case-patient was identified in Ariwara, 70 kilometers from DR Congo's border with South Sudan.
“We are setting up an isolation unit in Ariwara to prevent further spread of the deadly virus,” said Roland Hansen, Malteser International’s Africa Team Leader. “The patient, who unfortunately passed away, had travelled nearly 500km from Beni to Ariwara by public transport. There is a high possibility that other people are now also infected. We therefore need to step up our efforts to control the epidemic.”
In close cooperation with the Congolese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), Malteser International is working to improve hygiene and infection prevention and control measures in the region. “We will distribute protective suits to hospitals and set up screening posts and isolation units in public places. Our trained workers in Ariwara are now taking temperatures in public areas and roads leading to the city, identifying people showing symptoms compatible with the disease and transferring them to hospitals for treatment,” said Hansen.
Malteser International teams are also carrying out health promotion activities and reinforcing community engagement. “Our radio programs, for example, are sensitizing members of the community about Ebola and ways to protect themselves against the disease. In addition, we have set up hand washing stations wherever many people come together. This way we can prevent the epidemic from reaching places that are Ebola-free,” said Hansen.
The Ebola outbreak in DR Congo began a year ago, with the first cases confirmed in August 2018. In the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, 2,522 people have been infected with the virus since July 2018 and 1,698 have died. Emergency response teams have so far struggled to provide adequate support to fight the outbreak, in part due to the ongoing violence in the region.
Malteser International has been providing assistance in the DR Congo since 1996 and has been involved in the outbreak response, working with the Ministry of Health and supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.
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Funds are urgently needed right now to stop the Ebola virus from spreading further across the region.
Donation reference: Ebola and the humanitarian crisis in DR Congo