(Updated June 12, 2019)
On August 1, 2018, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared that an outbreak of the Ebola virus had occurred in the North Kivu (Kivu Nord) and Ituri provinces. . As of June 9, 2019, the World Health Organization reported 2,062 cases of Ebola (1,968 confirmed, 94 probable), with 1,390 deaths (1,296 confirmed, 94 probable).
This is the world’s second largest Ebola outbreak in recorded history and the largest ever in the DRC. The outbreak is occurring in a region rife with insecurity. Multiple armed groups engaged in regional ethnic struggles have caused large-scale displacement, with more than 1 million internally displaced people in North Kivu province alone. Several attacks have been launched against health facilities and workers, resulting in the looting and burning of clinics, and kidnapping and murder of staff. The violence targeting health workers and facilities forced the suspension of Ebola response activities for a week in April.
Adding to the peril, the Ebola-affected provinces share borders with Rwanda and Uganda, with frequent cross-border movement for personal travel and trade, increasing the chance that the virus could spread beyond the DRC.
IMA World Health is working in the epicenter of the Ebola zone, coordinating with local communities and organizations to stop the spread of the virus in five of the most-affected health zones in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where nearly 1.2 million people live. The work, carried out in cooperation with the DRC’s Ministry of Health and the WHO Strategic Response Plan, is being funded by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). IMA’s role centers around supporting health facilities and community engagement activities in and around Beni and Butembo towns. Highlights of IMA’s Ebola response include:
- Implementing community outreach and mobilization, which includes training and sensitizing community outreach workers and the general public on signs and symptoms of Ebola, disease awareness, prevention and reduction of stigma. We are also working with religious leaders to engage their respective congregations in the fight against Ebola and increase community cooperation with Ebola response teams.
- Conducting contact tracing in coordination with the WHO-supported contact team to track the spread of the virus and quickly identify and isolate new cases.
- Refurbishing first line health care facilities so they can isolate patients who present to the health facility with symptoms of Ebola and prevent the spread of infection to other patients or health care workers within these facilities.
- Improving infection prevention and control practices at 50 at-risk health facilities by providing them with water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management facilities and equipment to prevent transmission of the virus within the facility from patient to patient or patient to health care provider. We are also supplying health facilities with personal protection supplies such as soap, gloves, gowns, masks and goggles to protect workers who come in contact with the virus.
IMA will continue to work closely with OFDA, WHO and the Government of the DRC to combat the spread of the disease. In the coming months, IMA will expand our engagement with communities to build trust and social cohesion within communities and between communities and the outbreak response. IMA is working with other partners in the Ebola response to try to stop the spread of Ebola from Beni to Goma, a major regional city that sits on the border with Rwanda, by mobilizing operations along the corridor between the two cities.
Should Ebola begin to spread beyond the borders of the DRC, Lutheran World Relief and IMA are preparing to mount a rapid response in Uganda. We have placed an Infectious Disease Advisor in Kampala, Uganda to coordinate with the Ebola Task Force led by the Ugandan Ministry of Health and WHO. We are working with the Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau, a local faith-based NGO, to prepare health facilities on the Uganda/DRC border to receive suspected Ebola patients. Through the same model of support to health care facilities and workers that we are using in DRC, we are strengthening the Uganda health care system’s preparedness and resilience to address a potential Ebola outbreak in their country.
IMA WORLD HEALTH IN THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
IMA has been active in the DRC since 1995 — and operating in the northeast region, specifically, since 2010 — collaborating with the Congolese government, donors and an array of local and international partners to revitalize the country’s health system, fight diseases and improve the health for vulnerable populations.
- Through our Access to Primary Health Care Project (Accéss au Soins Santé Primaire), funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and implemented from 2013 to 2019, IMA provided health services to an estimated nine million people across 52 health zones in five provincial health divisions. We strengthened priority interventions such as the treatment of malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea; nutrition; obstetric and neonatal care; family planning; immunization; and water, sanitation and hygiene. IMA is building on the achievements of ASSP through the follow-on initiative Support to the Health System in DRC Programme (Appui au système de santé en RDC (ASSR)). ASSR will continue providing support to the health sector in four provinces — Nord Ubangi, Kasai, Kasai Central and Maniema — as well as at the national level.
- IMA led the USAID-funded Ushindi project from 2010-2017, and currently leads Tushinde Ujeuri, which works to prevent sexual and gender-violence in the DRC and provide holistic support to survivors.
- IMA, through emergency funding from OFDA, is procuring, assembling and distributing post-exposure prophylaxis kits for STI and HIV infections for victims of sexual violence, providing treatment to health centers in hospitals nationwide.
- With support from the Global Fund, and in partnership with the SANRU Rural Health Program (Projet Santé Rurale) and CORDAID, IMA is providing lifesaving TB and HIV commodities to a population of over 2 million people on the DRC’s conflict-ridden eastern border.
With OFDA funding, IMA is addressing key challenges in health care and food security resulting from conflicts in Kasai and Kasai Central provinces. Working with SANRU, IMA is working to restore the functionality of health facilities that were burned and/or looted, build financial sustainability in the health and support vulnerable households facing food insecurity by assisting families to start producing food as quickly as possible.
Lutheran World Relief and IMA World Health experts are available for interviews. Contact Senior Manager, Media Relations John Rivera at @email.