Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 June 2018—While progress has been made to contain the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the response on the ground has entered a new critical phase as national authorities, international agencies and local organizations focus on ending the outbreak, says the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
“We enter a critical moment where we will either win or lose this battle against Ebola,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa on her return from the disease epicentre in Bikoro. “In spite of gains made, the situation is precarious, and there is more that needs to be done before we can claim victory.”
The spread of Ebola has slowed measurably in recent weeks. However, a new confirmed case was reported on 6 June, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 38. In the past week, five new suspected Ebola cases have been reported in Wangata and Iboko health zones.
“The current suspected cases are showing up in remote areas, an indication that the outbreak has shifted again to rural areas,” said Dr Fatoumata Nafo-Traoré. “This is challenging because we now need to access very isolated communities. Doing it effectively requires insider knowledge on cultural norms and standards. That’s exactly what our volunteers bring to the table.”
One of the key challenges in ending the outbreak is that people’s understanding of the disease and how it spreads is very limited. In some of the affected areas, cultural practices such as traditional burial rites and the consumption of bushmeat represent major risk factors. Convincing people to change them takes local understanding and dialogue.
“These are very serious risks that complicate our response. We are appealing to our partners to increase their support to reach the hardest to reach areas where Ebola could still be lurking, so that we can bring this outbreak to a close,” said Dr Nafo-Traoré.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is ramping up its Ebola response efforts. In partnership with the DRC Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), IFRC is appealing for nearly 7.9 million Swiss francs to support 400,000 people over the next six months. The operation will focus on community engagement and surveillance, active case search, psychosocial support; infection prevention and control; disinfection, and safe burials in the Wangata, Mbandaka, Bolenge, Bikoro and Iboko health zones. The ICRC will also provide health support to detainees in Mbandaka prison.
So far, Red Cross volunteers and staff have reached over 70,000 people with information on the disease and are providing safe burials in affected communities. Trained Red Cross doctors and nurses are also supporting infection prevention and control activities in six hospitals in the regional capital, Mbandaka.
In Mbandaka: Corrie Butler, +243 89 718 3541, firstname.lastname@example.org
In Nairobi: Euloge Ishimwe, +254 731 688 613, email@example.com
In Geneva: Laura Ngô-Fontaine, +41 79 959 3662, firstname.lastname@example.org