On 12 May 2018 in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a health worker at Bikoro Hospital, the epicenter of the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC. Bikoro Hospital has sealed off a ward to diagnose suspected Ebola patients and provide treatment. The DRC has experienced nine known Ebola outbreaks.Following the announcement by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 8 May 2018 of a new Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, UNICEF has mobilised its teams to help contain the spread of the disease. The outbreak was declared in the Bikoro Health Zone, located more than 100 kilometers south of the provincial capital of Mbandaka. A UNICEF team with two doctors, a specialist in water, sanitation and hygiene as well as a specialist in community communication left today from Mbandaka to assess the extent of the epidemic and begin implementing the response, alongside the Government and the World Health Organization (WHO). This is the ninth Ebola outbreak in the country since 1976. UNICEF supports the Government in its coordination of the response both from the country’s capital Kinshasa as well as in the affected area. UNICEF has been active in the Equateur Province for many years. Based on its experience in previous Ebola epidemics, UNICEF is focusing its response on communication activities in the communities to protect people from the disease and on water supply, hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of the disease. UNICEF has already sent a total of 45 kg of chlorine, five sprays, 50kg of soap and 28,000 water purification tablets to the area, as well as 600 posters and 6,000 leaflets to educate affected communities.
PODCAST: Why the Latest Ebola Outbreak in the DRC is So Dangerous
An ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo has sickened over 200 people and resulted in over 130 deaths as of October 18. It could get worse.
What makes this current outbreak so potentially dangerous is the fact that it is occurring in a conflict zone. Ebola has been confirmed in two provinces, North Kivu and Ituri, that have long been a hotbed for various armed groups. As my guest today, Heather Kerr of Save the Children explains, this insecurity is seriously undermining efforts to bring this outbreak under control.
To be sure, the DRC is experienced in handling Ebola outbreaks. A separate outbreak in the country’s Equateur province was quickly and effectively contained last summer. But the challenges facing this latest outbreak are immense. In particular, the large city of Beni was recently attacked by an armed group, forcing health workers to curtail their activities.
I caught up with Heather Kerr, who is Save the Children’s Country Director for DRC, from Kinshasa, the capitol of the DRC where she was just emerging from a meeting on the ebola outbreak. If you have twenty minutes and want to learn how local authorities and the international community are responding to this challenging outbreak, have a listen