Kinshasa/Dakar/New York/Geneva — One month after the beginning of the school year, 80 per cent of school-aged children have returned to school in Beni and Mabalako health zones, the two epicentres of the current Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). More than half of these children are girls.
"All children, including those living in Ebola-affected areas of the eastern DRC, have the right to education," said Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. "That's why our Ebola-response aims to ensure that schools in affected areas are offering a protective environment for children to continue their education, while teachers also teach children how to protect themselves from Ebola."
UNICEF has identified more than 1,500 schools in the areas affected by the latest Ebola epidemic. Among these, 365 schools located in the epicentres of the outbreak are deemed to be high risk.
"When children in school learn about how to prevent Ebola transmission, they are also helping to avoid further spread of the disease in the community," said Dr Rotigliano. "These children are promoting regular hand washing with their families at home."
To date, UNICEF and its partners have:
Equipped all 365 targeted schools in the high-risk zones with hygiene and health equipment;
Trained more than 3,500 teachers and school principals on preventive measures on Ebola to guarantee schools are protective environments for children;
Reached 69,338 school children with Ebola prevention messages;
Provided assistance to 129 orphaned and unaccompanied school-aged children to return to school.
As some children in the affected areas are still not in school, UNICEF and its partners continue to sensitize and encourage parents to register their children and ensure that their right to education is fulfilled.