UNICEF welcomes end of North Kivu Ebola outbreak in the DRC
KINSHASA, 3 MAY 2021 - UNICEF welcomes the announcement by the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today declaring the end of the Ebola outbreak in the province of North Kivu in eastern DRC which began on 7 February 2021.
The rapid response of the Government, local authorities, international and local partners and the Congolese people in containing the outbreak – the third to have hit the country in less than a year – averted the risk of many more cases and deaths.
“Our previous experience in responding to multiple Ebola epidemics in the DRC has equipped us with the knowledge and tools to avert an uncontrolled spread of the disease and limit its impact on children,” said Jean Metenier, UNICEF Senior Coordinator for eastern DRC.
Twelve people became infected and six people died over the course of the latest Ebola resurgence, which lasted nearly three months in the Biena, Katwa, Musienene and Butembo Health Zones of North Kivu province. No children were infected.
“We commend the Congolese authorities for their swift action, active surveillance and mass community mobilization,” Metenier added. “We are grateful to our donors for their generous and timely support, as we move into the next phase of supporting survivors, their children and families.”
The recent resurgence was related to the 2018-2020 outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in which 3,470 people (28 per cent of whom were children) were infected and 2,287 were killed. Another outbreak in Equateur province, in western DRC, infected 130 people (including 11 children) and killed 55 between June and November 2020.
UNICEF took swift action to prevent the spread of the disease within the first week of the resurgence being declared. It immediately provided water, sanitation and infection control supplies in addition to medical equipment from its warehouses across the country.
Capitalising on a network of Community Action Cells (CACs) in North Kivu, UNICEF assisted efforts speedily to track and trace all those who came into contact with suspected and confirmed cases. Over three months, more than 1,000 CACs reported more than 64,00 alerts, which were subsequently investigated to determine whether a case needed to be quickly isolated for treatment at the closest health centre or Ebola Treatment Centre.
UNICEF worked closely with local health authorities to support community mobilization against Ebola through various measures to prevent contamination and further infections. Psychosocial and nutritional support was given to all those infected and affected, including children.
Additionally, evidence-based data produced by the Social Science Analytics Cell (CASS) during the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreak were implemented to guide and improve the latest response. These included the recruitment of first-line responders – including decontamination teams, CACs and psychosocial staff – from the affected communities to improve acceptance and trust.
More specifically, UNICEF and its partners have:
- Reached more than 5.5 million people in the affected communities with life-saving information on Ebola symptoms, prevention and treatment;
- Provided 244 health centres with kits to prevent and control infections;
- Cared for children separated from their caregivers;
- Provided psychosocial support to 531 people, including Ebola patients and their families, children with or suspected to have Ebola, and survivors;
- Increased the participation of women in CACs to 30 per cent;
- Trained 25 people and nine partner NGOs on prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Over the next 90 days, UNICEF will continue working alongside the Congolese government, partners and communities to:
- Expand water and sanitation services in healthcare centres and the capacity of healthcare workers to prevent and control infectious diseases;
- Maintain community-based surveillance to quickly detect outbreaks;
- Grow the awareness of communities of diseases such as Ebola and COVID-19;
- Provide psychological support to people who have recovered from or are affected by Ebola, as well as victims of gender-based violence;
- Monitor the nutritional status of orphaned and separated children.
UNICEF’s donors for the Ebola response in eastern DRC were:
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.