Containing the Ebola Outbreak at the Crossroads of the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Friday, February 15, 2019
By Paul Martin
15 Feb 2019

Kinshasa – The tenth Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has taken the lives of more than 500 people and resulted in more than 760 confirmed cases since it was declared more than six months ago. The current outbreak is the second largest in history, developing in the east of the country where long-standing insecurity, armed conflicts and instability challenge the humanitarian and public health response.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community to support its USD 12 million appeal to assist government and humanitarian partners to contain the disease before it claims more lives and spreads across borders.

Since the start of the deadly outbreak, the Organization has supported the government to screen more than 32 million travellers and to operate 80 screening points in areas of high population mobility, such as markets, parking areas and along major key transport routes.

In partnership with the Congolese Ministry of Health, particularly the National Programme of Hygiene at Borders (PNHF), and the World Health Organization (WHO), IOM implements surveillance and prevention activities, utilizing mobility trends to minimize disease transmission to new areas and across borders. IOM also trains frontline workers to detect illness among travellers, provides essential equipment and supplies to screening points and strengthens the capacity of PNHF to oversee screening activities.

Currently, the outbreak is just a day’s drive from Goma, the capital of North Kivu inhabited by over one million people, as well as neighbouring countries: Rwanda, Uganda and South Sudan. In areas with such high mobility, screening sites can be the last bastion.

Located throughout North Kivu and Ituri, as well as in other provinces not affected by the disease, screening points are important to prevent the spread of the disease and to strengthen the capacity of other provinces to detect and respond to cases. The Organization has deployed around 800 workers to support these efforts significantly minimizing disease transmission both inside and outside the country.

“Fighting Ebola is a race against the clock. It is a battle that we cannot lose,” said Fabien Sambussy, Head of IOM Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

At the screening points, travellers go through a process that includes observation for symptoms of illness, temperature checking, hand-washing and a review of Ebola risk factors, such as traveling to an Ebola-affected zone or attending a funeral for someone who died of Ebola.

As travellers are screened, they receive key messages about the risks of Ebola, how to prevent it, and what to do if travelling while sick. Additionally, at seven priority screening points, IOM assists in finding people who have been in contact with affected cases and might have contracted the disease.

“We are very happy about the work they (IOM) are doing for us towards fighting the Ebola disease. They have set up hand-washing facilities. They have sensitized us on how to protect ourselves from contracting Ebola. They tell us not to eat meat from dead animals in the forest. They tell us not to touch any sick person without protective equipment used by doctors,” said Kabyaura Koleki, a fish trader from Tchomia, Ituri.

With funding exhausted in January 2019, IOM’s critical activities are now at risk. The third Ebola Strategic Response Plan (SRP 3), officially launched by Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga, Minister of Public Health, on 13 February 2019, presents a strengthened plan to contain the disease within the next six months. IOM remains committed to supporting the government in its efforts to save lives and end the epidemic.

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