Ebola awareness campaign begins near Rwanda's borders with Burundi

UNICEF-trained health workers like Angelique volunteer their time to spread messages on Ebola prevention in their own communities.

By Elma Shaw
03 March 2020

BUGESERA, Rwanda – Dreams don’t always come true, but sometimes they come close enough. At least that’s what Angelique Bamurange says as she prepares to visit a household in the Gitovu neighborhood of Nyamata, in Bugesera District.

Years ago, Angelique was not allowed the opportunity to become a doctor. But for the past decade, Angelique has volunteer as a community health worker and feels lucky to be in the field, helping people live healthier lives. She was elected for this position by residents of her own village, tasked with teaching and following up with them on maternal health, infant care, and basic hygiene.

 

Angelique Bamurange, community health volunteer in Rwanda, stands in her community in Bugesera District on the border with Burundi. She has been trained by UNICEF to spread messages on Ebola prevention.
UNICEF/UNI332023/Minega
Angelique Bamurange volunteers her time as a community health worker, trained by UNICEF and GHDF to spread messages on Ebola prevention to her neighbours.

 

Because community health workers have a wide reach and are trusted by the communities they serve, Global Humanitarian and Development Foundation (GHDF), with funding from UNICEF, recently trained Angelique and nearly 2,000 of her colleagues in Bugesera and Nyanza Districts to spread information on Ebola Virus Disease.

Since the 2018 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 13 other Rwandan districts bordering DR Congo and Uganda have participated in awareness campaigns. Bugesera and Nyanza, the newest participants, share Rwanda’s border with Burundi.

 

Angelique Bamurange, community health volunteer in Rwanda, tends to her home garden before heading out in her community to discuss Ebola prevention with neighbours.
UNICEF/UNI332028/Mbarushimana
As a community health worker, Angelique is a volunteer. When she is not teaching others about Ebola prevention, she can often be found tending to her home vegetable garden.

 

“It was important for us to be trained on Ebola prevention right here in Bugesera because we are a central point for travelers," says Angelique. "Many people from surrounding countries come to our town.”

On a typical day, Angelique rises early to see her five children off to school, tends to her cooperative farm or her home garden, then spends the afternoon following up with people in some of the households assigned to her.

“People have heard Ebola messages at community gatherings, but they don’t always want to ask questions there. They feel more free to ask questions when it’s just me in the privacy of their home.”

Angelique Bamurange, community health worker

Today, Angelique is visiting a family in a well-kept compound surrounded by a lush, green, natural fence. Betty and her sister Rose, who has a young baby, have been looking forward to this follow-up visit.

At a handwashing station set up just inside their front door, Betty pours water in a steady stream so Angelique can wash her hands before they sit down. Angelique nods her approval.

 

Angelique Bamurange, community health worker, washes her hands before entering her neighbour's home in Rwanda to help prevent the spread of Ebola.
UNICEF/UNI332027/Mbarushimana

The Ebola awareness campaign has only just begun in Bugesera, but these ladies are already taking the messages seriously and using preventive methods. They do not even shake hands in greeting, as culture once demanded.

Gilbert Musine, Head of the Nyamata Health Centre, appreciates what volunteers like Angelique do to support their communities. “The house-to-house visits by community health workers make it very easy for people to get accurate messages about Ebola,” he says, adding that he would like to see extensive training on managing Ebola offered to his staff.

“We are the first people who will be contacted if there’s an Ebola outbreak, but apart from isolating an infected person and taking them to the district hospital, there’s not much else we can do,” says Gilbert. “Our greatest need right now is skills training for our nurses.”