UNICEF welcomed the announcement by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today of the end of the 23-month long Ebola outbreak in the east of the country, but warned that increased efforts must continue in response to a new outbreak in the north-western province of Equateur.
The Ebola outbreak in eastern DRC began in August 2018 and was the world’s second deadliest - after the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa - and the first in an active conflict zone, killing 2,287 people and infecting 3,470. Children made up around 28 per cent of all cases, compared to about 20 per cent in previous epidemics.
During the eastern DRC Ebola outbreak, UNICEF supported 3,812 health centres with essential water, hygiene and sanitation services, provided more than 16,000 children with psychosocial support, and helped reach more than 37 million people across the country with life-saving information about the disease.
“Our experience tackling the outbreak in eastern DRC has shown us that strategic partnerships with community, religious leaders, journalists, radio stations, and civil society organizations, as well as generous funding, are instrumental to containing disease outbreak,” said UNICEF DRC Representative Edouard Beigbeder. “These valuable lessons are helping us in our current effort to tackle the new Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province, while also responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
Ebola resurfaced in Equateur on 1 June and has so far killed 13 people and infected 24. Genetic sequencing has shown that the outbreak is not linked to the one in the east or to the 2018 Equateur outbreak. Based on experience of responding to previous outbreaks, UNICEF has quickly deployed water, hygiene and sanitation supplies, and has been working alongside local government and civil society structures to share critical information on Ebola symptoms, prevention and treatment, and address myths and misinformation. UNICEF is also providing psychosocial support to Ebola patients – including children – and their families.
“We would have not been able to reach the end of the outbreak in Eastern DRC without massive mobilization of financial and human resources,” said Beigbeder. “As DRC records over 6,000 cases of COVID-19 infection, it is more important than ever that international donors support the country’s already overburdened health systems to fight against the disease and tackle the impacts on children and their families.”