In reaction to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 3,000 cases and nearly 2,000 deaths Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, Corinne N’Daw, said:
“This is yet another grim milestone for the Ebola outbreak in DRC and no end seems to be in sight.
“Worryingly the Ebola screening process, which relies on using a thermometer to spot any potential cases, doesn’t seem to be working. Several of the most recent confirmed cases are reported to have passed through a number of screening check points unnoticed. It’s crucial that local health workers on the frontline get much better training and equipment.
“It’s also a huge concern that we’ve seen cases appearing in two new areas over the last few weeks. As a result the response is being spread too thin chasing new cases at the expense of the longer-term community engagement that is crucial if we’re ever to hope of being Ebola free.
“Preventative work takes time and resources but we know from our experience it works. Given the trends we’re seeing in how the virus is spreading, we should not be waiting for places to become an Ebola hotspot before engaging with communities.”
Example of community engagement working:
In Katwa health zone, which was the main hotspot for some time earlier in the year, there was a lot of distrust towards the Ebola response. Given Oxfam had been working with communities there prior to the outbreak, we were able to gain their trust more easily than other responders. We worked with communities to help them to overcome some of their fears and misconceptions about the virus and crucially made sure they were more directly involved in the response. We did this by setting up women’s groups and training them to report cases. They were also proactive in encouraging other community members to go to health centres.
Cases there have now drastically decreased from up to 10 a day to just 25 in the last 6 weeks. In one neighbourhood, where people had been particularly distrusting of the response, our team were recently invited to celebrate with the community, who had been Ebola-free for 21 days.
For more information, or to arrange an interview with a spokesperson in DRC, please contact:
Sarah Dransfield (in the UK) on: +44 (0)7884 114825 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Alain Nkingi (in the DRC) on: +243 971 254 502 or email: ANkingi@oxfam.org.uk
Notes to editors:
· WHO figures on the number of Ebola cases and death in DRC can be found here (the most recent update as of 28 August showed 3004 cases confirmed and probable and 1998 deaths)
· Oxfam’s Ebola response has helped over 600,000 people by working directly with affected communities to build trust and help prevent the spread of the deadly disease.
· Oxfam has been working in the DRC for decades and has helped 1.3 million people in the last year with emergency humanitarian assistance and long term support to improve their lives.