By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC
In the past week alone, over 150 Red Cross volunteers have been mobilized to provide emergency assistance following the announcement of an Ebola outbreak in Likati health district, Bas-Uele province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on 11 May 2017. The Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been contributing to the efforts aimed at fighting the spread of the disease.
Reports from national health officials indicate that over 20 suspected cases, including three deaths, have been recorded. Meanwhile more than four hundred close contacts have been registered in affected health areas of Nambwa, Muma, Ngayi and Azande, and they are being monitored.
“With experience in responding to the seven previous Ebola outbreaks since 1976, the Red Cross has mobilized both its volunteers and senior technical staff to support the response action plan designed by national health authorities,” said Gregoire Mateso, President of the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
As a key partner in the ongoing national operation, the National Society deployed its water, sanitation and hygiene promotion expert, who is currently participating in an inter-agency field assessment, which is led by the country’s Ministry of Health, with a view to identifying the needs on the ground, for adequate response actions.
“In this initial phase, we have mobilized ten volunteers in each of the three most affected areas – Nambwa, Muma and Ngayi. These volunteers are currently being trained in disinfection techniques, safe and dignified burials, and preparation of chlorine solutions. These first volunteers will brief other volunteers as they join the rest of the teams,” said Jimmy Zaka Masongele, water, sanitation and hygiene manager.
Red Cross teams will carry out social mobilization activities, raise awareness about the outbreak and provide psychosocial support. Volunteers will also take part in surveillance and contact tracing, and continue water sanitation and hygiene promotion activities.
The IFRC has allocated 199,110 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to enable the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Cong to respond to this outbreak. IFRC has also deployed a medical doctor, who is a member of the regional disaster response team, for technical support to Red Cross teams on the ground.
“The support provided by IFRC at this early stage of the outbreak will boost the National Society’s ongoing efforts aimed at improving knowledge at community level,” said Andrei Engstrand-Neacsu, head of the IFRC’s country cluster for Central Africa.
In recent weeks, large numbers of people fleeing violence in Bongassou, Central African Republic, have sought refuge in this northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, raising fears that the disease might spread further. The Red Cross continues to assess this evolving situation to ensure that this risk is mitigated through adequate awareness activities.
“Although the affected areas remain extremely difficult to access and have poor telecommunications connectivity, we are confident that the combined experience and joint action of the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and IFRC will form a major part of the national and international efforts to stem the spread of the Ebola virus disease,” added Engstrand-Neacsu.