Three victories against Ebola in two years
For two years, UNICEF teams worked to protect children from the consequences of the Ebola virus.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faced three successive Ebola outbreaks from May 2018 to November 2020. For two years, UNICEF teams worked to protect children from the consequences of the Ebola virus. Hundreds of specialists were mobilized on the ground and some have faced the three outbreaks.
Prior to 8 May 2018, when the ninth Ebola epidemic was declared in Equateur province, Telly Dibindukidi was in charge of communication and sensitizing activities in the fight against polio. “I had already participated in two Ebola outbreaks, the one in Boende in 2014 and the one in Guinea-Conakry in 2015”, he explains. With his experience, Telly joined the UNICEF response team to protect the children in Equateur province.
“For the first time, there was a preventive vaccine against Ebola”, he recalls. UNICEF has played a leading role in communicating vital immunization information to communities affected by the epidemic. It was essential to actively involve local communities so that they understood how the immunization was organized and how they could participate. “Knowing the work environment is very important in order to choose credible and effective channels to get messages across”, Telly explains.
UNICEF interventions have enabled more than one million people to be informed about prevention methods and more than 3,300 people were accompanied during vaccination. On 24 July 2018, the Government announced the end of the ninth Ebola epidemic, but a new outbreak was quickly declared in the east of the country. Telly was quickly deployed in the East of the country along with other specialists including Richard Rubuz.
In charge of water, hygiene, and sanitation, Richard has been in the front line to help prevent and control the infections. During the tenth Ebola outbreak, UNICEF was, for the first time, in charge of the decontamination of affected homes and health facilities. “We had spectacular results”, recalls Richard.
For 23 months, UNICEF supported 3,812 health centers by providing them with essential water, hygiene, and sanitation services and carried out almost 800 decontaminations. Just a few days before the announcement of the end of this epidemic, Ebola resurfaced in the province of Equateur. Genetic sequencing has shown that this new outbreak was unrelated to the Eastern one and to that of Equateur in 2018.
Within the 48 hours following the outbreak's declaration, Telly, Richard, and Jean-Pierre Masuku were urgently redeployed to Equateur province to help contain the spread of the disease.
“Each epidemic has its specificities and the latest one was complicated by the coronavirus pandemic”, explains Jean-Pierre who was in charge of communication and Community outreach. “The restrictive measures linked to the coronavirus have hampered our communication activities”, he explains. For several weeks, the radio was the only channel of communication while churches were closed, and groupings prohibited.
“There were many cases of resistances because the population was not sufficiently informed, but when the restrictions were lifted, we managed to mobilize the communities”, says Jean-Pierre proudly. Over the past five months and half, UNICEF has reached more than one million people providing them with vital information about the coronavirus and Ebola virus disease.
Although the epidemics are over, UNICEF continues to support survivors and children, affected by Ebola, who require special attention and care, while continuing to promote hygiene practices. “The community must continue to respect good practices to protect themselves from many diseases”, concludes Jean-Pierre.