Heroes at the forefront of the fight against Ebola
In eastern DRC, frontline workers battled for 23 months against the second worst Ebola crisis in history.
On 25 June 2020, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared the end of the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in the world. Children made up around 28 per cent of all cases, compared to about 20 per cent in previous epidemics.
"My job was to take care of children who were confirmed positive for the virus and those who were suspected," explains Dr. Roland, a paediatrician at the Ebola treatment centre in Beni. Despite the security concerns, Dr. Roland and his teams worked day after day to save the children's lives. "I am a doctor, I have to take the risk of saving children's lives because I took an oath to do so," he says.
For 23 months, the Ebola response teams made heroic efforts to save the lives of people in areas affected by the epidemic, sometimes at the risk of their own safety.
UNICEF helped reach more than 37 million people with life-saving information about the disease, including by partnering with community radio stations. When violence and community resistance hampered the response in Lwemba, community radio stations continued to broadcast spots, programmes and songs on Ebola disease. "It was our duty to make the community understand that Ebola was real," recalls Joel, director of Lwemba Community Radio. In November 2019, violence led to the death of one of the journalists of Radio Communautaire Lwemba. "He was a model, a hero," Joël said sadly.
During the outbreak, UNICEF has supported the decontamination of hundreds of health facilities, households, public places and schools to break the chain of transmission of the virus.
Jacques led a decontamination team in Beni and also faced a lot of resistance. "People said that the response teams were bringing the disease to exterminate them," says Jacques. His team faced acts of violence many times. "One day, our vehicle burned down," says Jacques, who never gave up.
A few days before the end of the epidemic was declared in eastern DRC, a new epidemic was declared in Equateur Province in the north-west of the country. Everyday heroes continue to fight this new epidemic, while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.