Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo

Outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri

Girl has her temperature taken to monitor fevers in Ebola

The Ebola outbreak in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is the tenth outbreak in the country since 1976.

In the two provinces affected by this latest outbreak – North Kivu and Ituri – insecurity and armed conflicts have made the response more difficult than in previous outbreaks.


Children who lose a parent due to Ebola or whose parents are infected by the disease are at risk of being stigmatized, isolated or abandoned, in addition to the experience of losing a loved one. They are particularly vulnerable, and UNICEF is concerned for their wellbeing.

Dieudonné, 13, lost 8 members of his family to Ebola: “They all died of Ebola. It was my entire family. It was my mum initially and then my sisters and aunts followed. [..] I can’t just kill myself, I must continue to live.” UNICEF works with communities to stop the spread of Ebola and protect children.

Kavira was cured of Ebola and is now immune to the disease. She gives her time to help provide care for children admitted in the Ebola treatment center in Beni, supporting their recovery and giving them the love that every child needs.

Jacques and his mother survived the world’s second largest Ebola outbreak in history. Now he’s going back to school. UNICEF has been there every step of the way.

At a glance

What is the impact on children?

In this outbreak, children represent a high proportion among the confirmed cases of Ebola. About 30 per cent of confirmed cases are children. But the impact of the disease on children is not limited to the children that have been or are infected by the disease. It impacts their families and communities when children lose their parents, care-givers and teachers. Also, the outbreak makes basic services such as health care and education much harder to access.

How about children who have lost their parents or caregivers?

UNICEF and its partners have identified more than 400 children who have been orphaned or left unaccompanied as a result of the Ebola outbreak. This figure includes children who have lost one or both parents, or primary caregivers to Ebola, as well as those who have been left unaccompanied while their parents are isolated in Ebola treatment centers.

What is being done to fight the outbreak?

National health authorities in DRC are leading the response to the Ebola outbreak, building on their experience with previous outbreaks. They are supported by many local and international partner organizations, such as UNICEF, WHO, and MSF, all working together to: provide care and treatment to patients; trace people that have been in contact with infected people; inform and work with communities on prevention measures; deliver water, sanitation and hygiene to prevent the spread of the disease; and provide psychosocial care to infected people and their families, etc.

What is UNICEF’s role?

UNICEF's contribution to the response focusses on four main areas: 1. communication and community engagement to inform and protect local populations; 2. water, sanitation and hygiene activities in communities, schools and health centers to help prevent further spread of the disease; 3. psycho-social support to assist families, including children who are affected by the disease; 4. Prevention measures in schools to create a protective environment.

UNICEF multidisciplinary teams include anthropologists, who ensure that the prevention and treatment efforts are sensitive to cultural believes and practices, particularly around caring for sick and deceased individuals, and addressing populations’ concerns about secure and dignified burials.

Is there a vaccine against Ebola?

Yes, a vaccine exists against this strain of Ebola. In the vaccination efforts, UNICEF’s role is to inform communities on the vaccine and ways to prevent against the disease. Vaccines are given for free and on a voluntary basis to health workers, and to persons who have been in contact with infected persons and to contacts of these persons.