DRC Ebola crisis

Aimée, age 14, holding a photo of her grandmother, Msika, who died from Ebola Virus Disease

Millions of people in the DRC and beyond are at risk from the Ebola outbreak.

The year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been declared a public health emergency of international concern - but the disease is continuing to spread. Efforts to contain the epidemic and to treat affected people are being hampered by violent conflict and insecurity.

Aimée, age 14 (pictured above), contracted the Ebola Virus Disease but was cured. Her grandmother, Msika, did not survive the disease. Aimée says:

My grandmother was the one providing for us. She worked in the field, sold the produce in the city market and returned with money. She managed all our family matters, she had a solution for everything. There is now a big void in our family.

If we act now we can help prevent families like Aimée’s from being torn apart by deadly viruses like Ebola.

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David Bisimwa, CARE’s humanitarian coordinator in the DRC, says: 

Two deaths and a third case of Ebola in Goma is a striking reminder of the urgency we face in stopping the spread of the epidemic. It is crucial that the international community dedicate the necessary resources to ensure the virus is contained and eliminated, before it takes more lives in Goma, is transmitted to other vulnerable communities, or spreads to neighbouring countries. We are nearly a year into this response – if donors don’t make this a priority, the risks are terrifying.

Benoit Munsch, CARE’s country director in the DRC, says:

In order for the humanitarian community’s response to be consistent and reach the most vulnerable communities in urgent need of assistance, we must absolutely ensure that local communities are front and centre in the response and empowered with the right tools and information to combat the virus.

Everyone involved in the fight to stop Ebola must consult affected communities and listen to their feedback, in order to support them in the most effective way. Listening to feedback from women is absolutely critical. Ebola will not be eliminated until local communities can play a more active role in the response.

CARE started responding to Ebola in the DRC in August 2018, including in areas where we had been working before the outbreak. Our interventions include community awareness and handwashing stations in schools and local facilities, training of health staff and provision of water and protection equipment, and distribution of hygiene kits including hand sanitisers, razors, sanitary pads, soap, and other materials.

With cases now reported in neighbouring Uganda, where many people have fled from the conflict in the DRC, we are also supporting a health clinic and Ebola response unit at Kasonga, Uganda, serving the Kyangwali Refugee Settlement and environs. Watch this video of a CARE staff member putting on his Personal Protection Equipment kit:

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The crisis in brief

One year on from the outbreak beginning in August 2018, there have been more than 2,600 confirmed cases, including more than 1,800 deaths. There have been deaths and confirmed cases in Goma city, and in neighbouring Uganda.

According to a joint statement from the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and the World Food Programme (31 July 2019):

The disease is relentless and devastating. Ebola passes from mother to child, husband to wife, patient to caregiver, from the dead body of a victim to the mourning relative. The disease turns the most mundane aspects of everyday life upside down — hurting local businesses, preventing children from going to school and hampering vital and routine health services. It is primarily a health crisis, but one that also critically impacts how people care for their family, view their neighbours and interact with their community.

We salute the heroic efforts of the mostly Congolese healthcare workers on the front line, the people of affected communities and partners. Despite their ceaseless work, the disease continues to spread. This outbreak is occurring in an active conflict zone which makes an effective response far more complicated because of insecurity, including armed attacks on health workers and facilities, and population displacement. We call on all parties to the violence to ensure that responders can do their work safely and that those seeking care can access it without fear of attacks.

CARE’s response

CARE has been working in the DRC since 2002, particularly through programming that helps to provide access to primary and maternal health care, governance and women’s economic empowerment, and always in consultation with affected communities. The DRC is one of the world’s poorest countries and in addition to poverty and high unemployment rates, the country is suffering from several internal armed conflicts. CARE has been providing a humanitarian response to assist people affected by or displaced by the conflict since 2016.

We started responding to Ebola in the DRC in August 2018, including in areas where we had been working before the outbreak. CARE’s interventions include community awareness and handwashing stations in schools and local facilities, training of health staff and provision of water and protection equipment, and distribution of necessary kits for personal hygiene and protection, especially for women and girls who are most susceptible to be infected with the virus due to their traditional role in caring for other family members. These kits include hand sanitisers, razors, sanitary pads, soap, and other materials.

We are working to expand our response in the DRC and are increasing preparedness for any potential Ebola response in neighbouring countries.

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