NEW YORK (November 18, 2020) – UNICEF welcomes the announcement by the Government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today confirming the end of the latest Ebola outbreak in Equateur province in the north-west of the country.
The 11th outbreak to hit the DRC since 1976, and the second in Equateur in less than two years, the outbreak killed 55 people and infected 130. Two children died and 11 were infected.
“Though the outbreak is over, children affected by the Ebola epidemic will still require special attention and care, as communities affected begin to return to normal life,” said Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “Throughout the latest epidemic to hit DRC, we have worked with our partners to meet children’s unique physical, psychological and social needs. This includes caring for the wellbeing of surviving parents and family members so that they can better look after their children.”
UNICEF has provided care and psychosocial support to hundreds of children whose parents or caregivers have fallen ill or died due to Ebola. Such support is critical for children who are especially vulnerable to isolation, stigma, malnutrition or poverty.
UNICEF’s experience of responding to previous outbreaks allowed the organization and its partners to deploy its resources and expertise within 48 hours of the outbreak being declared on June 1, 2020. Over the following five and a half months, UNICEF worked closely with local and government partners to improve water and sanitation facilities within the Ebola treatment centers, provide psychosocial support to those infected and affected, including children separated from their caregivers, and strengthen knowledge of the disease and prevention practices within communities. More specifically, UNICEF and its partners have:
- Reached more than 1 million people with life-saving information on Ebola symptoms, prevention and treatment;
- Distributed more than half a million liters of clean water to the Ebola treatment centers in the province;
- Provided psychosocial support to 102 Ebola patients in the treatment centers, 288 children with or suspected to have Ebola, 66 survivors, and 387 members of families affected by Ebola;
- Cared for 26 children separated from their caregivers in 3 nurseries;
- Assisted more than 1,000 vulnerable children;
- Produced social science analysis including guidance briefs, perception and behavior surveys and recommendations to better guide the response;
- Trained government and NGO partners on prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse.
UNICEF will continue to reinforce the national health care system to make it more effective in responding to future epidemics. The organization is also working on programs for Ebola survivors in the DRC. In addition, it will work with the local health authorities in Equateur to ensure that mothers and children in the areas previously affected by Ebola continue to receive quality essential health care. This includes improving water and sanitation in health centers, promoting hygiene practices in affected communities, provide psychosocial support to Ebola survivors, as well as children affected by the epidemic.
The response to the 11th Ebola epidemic in DRC has been informed by social science studies from the previous Ebola epidemics, which emphasized the need to ensure communities are at the heart of response through targeted risk communication and engagement activities. As a result, communities have shown greater acceptance of the Ebola vaccine thanks to increased trust in health care workers and a better understanding of how the vaccine works, where to get it and what the side effects are.
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