DRC battling the second-biggest Ebola outbreak in history

February 21, 2019

Concern Worldwide is increasing its efforts to contain the spread of a major Ebola outbreak that has so far infected 840 people and killed 537 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

A deadly Ebola outbreak

As a lethal outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease continues to claim casualties in the mountainous North Kivu region of north-east of DRC, a major push is underway to stop it spreading further.

“This is the second biggest Ebola outbreak in history and the biggest ever in DRC,” said Concern’s Regional Director for Francophone Africa, Reka Sztopa, who worked in West Africa during the outbreak of 2014-16 that killed over 11,300 people.

Dead body management crew member dons protective gear

Concern has extensive experience of dealing with Ebola.

“Insecurity and the lack of access to the worst affected areas are the main reasons why this Ebola outbreak has not come under control already,” she said.  “There are many different armed groups in eastern Congo so this makes it very hard to reach those affected.”

“The outbreak is not yet under control and this is extremely worrying.”

Ebola can quickly infect and kill entire families and decimate communities through simple forms of human contact with someone who is acutely ill with the disease.

“One of the big concerns right now is that there are still some confirmed cases coming from outside the group of known contacts, meaning that the outbreak is not yet under control and this is extremely worrying.”

The number of Ebola deaths has risen by 45 per cent since the start of the year, from 370 on January 2 to 537 on February 17. At least 22 of the dead are health workers.

Concern has 180 staff in DRC, where the global NGO has worked since 1994.

Working to contain the spread

The Concern Ebola response  is being led by Area Coordinator, Mark Johnson  “Our current program aims to prevent the outbreak from spreading southwards towards the big city of Goma and also across the border to Rwanda by supporting health centers and sensitizing communities to the disease.”

Screeningduring the Ebola outbreak in DRC

Mark Johnson and the Concern team have been carrying out screening and messaging at public gatherings in North Kivu, DRC.

His team has trained over 350 health workers in how to control the Ebola outbreak . Concern is also equipping local health centers with infection prevention and control kits containing items like masks, gloves, disinfection equipment and non-touch thermometers. They are distributing the kits in coordination with the DRC Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), which is leading the overall response to the outbreak.

In recent weeks, Concern also repaired 15 water points in Beni city, close to the outbreak’s epicenter, to ensure people have access to safe drinking water, which is essential for disease control.

Checking temperatures at a health facility

Checking for fever is a simple way to screen for Ebola

Concern Worldwide has reached almost 62,000 people since the start of the outbreak last August as part of an Irish Aid funded measure aimed at informing communities about what to do if Ebola reaches them and how to prevent infection.The WHO has stepped up its warning of the potential risk of Ebola cases spreading to other parts of the DRC and into neighboring countries due to people traveling between the affected areas, and insecurity in the region.

The DRC, which has a population of over 85.2 million, is concurrently experiencing other epidemics that include cholera and malaria.

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