By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC

The Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) continues to support enhanced community surveillance and engagement as the country enters its 42 day period of intensive surveillance for additional Ebola cases.

The DRC’s national authorities reported a confirmed case of Ebola virus disease (EVD) on 11 May 2017 in the remote Bas-Uele province in the northern part of the country. As of 5 June 2017, there have been five confirmed, three probable, and one suspected case of Ebola.

According to WHO protocols, a country is declared to be Ebola free after 42 days have passed since the last confirmed case. After the 42-day period has elapsed, it is recommended that each country maintains a system of heightened surveillance for a further 90 days, and ensure ongoing EVD surveillance and notification.

“A high level of alertness is needed to detect and properly manage any new suspected Ebola cases,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC Regional Director for Africa.

“Affected communities hold the key to preventing further spread of Ebola. Listening to their concerns and providing them with information they can use will be critical to the success of the overall response to this outbreak,” she added.

The Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with support from the IFRC, has mobilized and trained more than 150 volunteers on community mobilization and providing health education sessions in affected communities.

“While it is vital to raise awareness on the disease and influence the adoption of positive reflexes at community level, the IFRC is currently providing technical support to strengthened volunteers’ capacities on social mobilization and communication techniques, while ensuring a good level of understanding of the epidemic,” said Dr. Viviane Nzeusseu, the IFRC’s health coordinator for Central Africa.

Together with the Ministry of Health, Red Cross volunteers were also trained in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). These volunteers are in responsible for preparation of chlorinate solutions and disinfection at the Likati district hospital, the Ebola treatment centre of Mouma, and other health centres. In addition, they carry out sensitization sessions on environmental sanitation and hygiene promotion with nearby communities.

To boost community awareness of EVD, the National Society and IFRC are targeting an additional 12,800 people to with information education and communication activities to reach communities that might be affected or exposed to the virus.

“Our next steps will include the provision of relief assistance to vulnerable communities and will focus on building a system that promotes a two-way communication, allowing communities to voice their needs. Thus, more attention will be paid to feedbacks but also to rumours and myths around the outbreak and other diseases,” said Dr. Viviane Nzeusseu.

In the days following the announcement of the outbreak, the IFRC released 200,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) to enable the Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of the Congo bring supplies and personnel to the affected area.