In response to the number of Ebola cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reaching 2000, Oxfam’s Country Director in the DRC, Corinne N’Daw said:
“It is clear the current response to tackle Ebola isn’t working. No matter how effective treatment is, if people don’t trust or understand it, they will not use it.
“Our teams are still meeting people on a daily basis who don’t believe Ebola is real. While we are working to challenge that, many cases are going un-noticed because people with symptoms have been avoiding treatment. This lack of trust makes it impossible to break the chain of transmission.
“Also, the number of violent attacks over the last few months has meant most aid organisations, including Oxfam, have had to repeatedly suspend activities. This has seriously hampered the ability to vaccinate people, decontaminate houses and carry out safe burials, resulting in a peak in cases. We fear another peak could happen in the next few weeks.
“Since the UN has stepped up their leadership in the Ebola response and is going to scale-up humanitarian aid, there’s an opportunity to reset the response and make sure it is focused on building this crucial trust with communities, without which we won’t be able to win the fight against Ebola.”
For more information, or to arrange an interview, please contact: Sarah Dransfield (in the UK) + 44 7884 114825 firstname.lastname@example.org or Scheherazade Bouabid (in the DRC) + 243 0815163782 email@example.com
Notes to editors:
Oxfam’s Ebola response is focussed on public health promotion and supporting community lead solutions to break the chain of transmission. We are also providing safe, clean water in affected communities and improving the infrastructures of health centres. Since the outbreak began, we have reached 602,181 people.
From working on previous Ebola outbreaks, Oxfam knows that talking with communities and finding safe solutions with them is critical to containing the virus– by using local health workers, working with community leaders who speak the local language and treating communities as equal partners, and recognising their capacity and experience to stop Ebola.
More cases have been reported in Mabalako and Butembo health zones in the last 3 weeks. Government sources indicate a peak in cases could occur in former epicenters of the outbreak like Beni and Mangina in the coming weeks.
Oxfam staff are hearing that some people are refusing to be vaccinated and would rather die at home than go to an Ebola clinic. One young woman Martine, who attended a training Oxfam organised for a women’s group, told us that even though her sister had died from Ebola late last year, most of her family didn’t believe the virus was real.
“She died of a fever, following childbirth and because the tests showed that her baby had not contracted Ebola, we thought this was proof that it didn’t exist.”
Martine told Oxfam that some of her family members felt so strongly that Ebola didn’t exist, that they had physically attacked decontamination and medical teams.
“Our father was the only one who believed that Ebola might be real and he kept trying to persuade the whole family. I started to think it might be true, then I attended the women’s forum discussions and Oxfam helped me to understand. Now I know that Ebola exists.”
As a result of her participation in the women’s group, Martine changed from someone who had refused to get vaccinated after her sister’s death to being a spokesperson who encourages people to use preventive measures against Ebola.
“Today I am working to make people aware, helping them understand how to prevent Ebola and that the virus is real.”