posted on 9 AUGUST 2018 by DOCTEUR IBRAHIM CISSE
On Tuesday 24 July, I thought that we were finally done with Ebola. After more than 80 days of struggle against the epidemic affecting the Equateur Province in the north-west of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Government announced the end of the epidemic. Thanks to the mobilisation of all parties, we were able to bring together the communities and lead them to adopt preventive behaviours that allowed us to stop the propagation of the epidemic.
On this day, we were all relieved to be able to say that the children were safe and sheltered from the epidemic. We had started to implement a post-Ebola transition plan that was going to last for 3 months, after which we would finally be able to resume our daily work. However, Ebola decided otherwise: exactly one week after the announcement of the end of the epidemic in the Equateur Province, the Government announced that the country was facing a new epidemic, the tenth since 1796.
With other experts who were still present in Mbandaka to continue efforts in communication and community engagement in order to avoid new epidemics in the zone, I was rapidly deployed to Beni to coordinate the UNICEF response to this new epidemic. Less than 48 hours after the announcement of the new epidemic by the Minister of Public Health, I found myself in the affected zone.
When I arrived, 31 suspected cases had already been reported… Nobody was expecting an epidemic to appear in this province north-west of the DRC, already destabilised by uncertainty and violence.
Luckily, the population was immediately receptive to our messages. We rapidly diffused messages through local radio and television channels in order to reach a maximum number of people. In parallel, we informed community leaders, religious leaders and civil society members about the means to prevent the Ebola virus disease. They mobilised immediately, which represented a real asset in the struggle against this epidemic.
The population of Nord-Kivu was conscious that Ebola was a mortal disease. The majority of people that I have met to date in the most affected zones had heard talk about the epidemic in the Equateur Province and about its consequences. Everyone was looking to protect themselves. In certain communities, I even met people who wore gloves in the street because they had heard that Ebola was a disease that could be transmitted through contact with the sick. If such people received these good messages, the communities would be able to easily protect themselves from the disease.
Even though the population and the authorities are completely engaged in the struggle against the Ebola epidemic, and though partners are already on the ground, many things still need to be done. We must strengthen our response to ensure that each child can grow in good health and calmly with their loved ones.
The work of UNICEF and its partners
Children continue to be at risk and are affected by the Ebola epidemic that is currently occurring in the DRC, which makes it essential that their health and well-being are a priority in the response. UNICEF concentrates on community-based communication to protect populations from sickness, on contributing to water, hygiene and sanitation to avoid the propagation of the disease, and on psychosocial support for affected persons and their families.