By Dipo Olowookere
More than 740 people have been infected so far in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the latest Ebola outbreak in the eastern part of the country in August 2018.
A statement issued by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) this week said 30 percent of the infected persons are children, while over 460 people have lost their lives to the deadly virus.
UNICEF said it is collaborating with the government and partners to scale up its response to assist victims, control the spread of the disease and ultimately end the deadly outbreak.
This is the 10th Ebola outbreak in the DRC and the country’s worst. It is also the world’s second largest Ebola outbreak in history after the one in West Africa in 2014-2016. The response to this latest outbreak continues to be hampered by insecurity, frequent movement of people in the affected areas, and resistance from some communities.
“While we have been able to largely control the disease in Mangina, Beni and Komanda, the virus continues to spread in the Butembo area, largely because of insecurity and population movement,” said Dr Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC. “We are scaling up our response and deploying additional staff in the health zones of Butembo and Katwa, where 65 per cent of the new Ebola cases in the last three weeks have occurred.”
Since the beginning of the epidemic, UNICEF and its partners have deployed more than 650 staff to work with Government, civil society, churches, and non-governmental organizations – to assist people and families who’ve been infected and to raise awareness about the best hygiene and behavioural practices to prevent Ebola from spreading.
UNICEF’s Ebola response focuses on community engagement, providing water and sanitation, making schools safe from Ebola and supporting children and families infected and affected by Ebola. UNICEF aims to control and prevent the spread of the disease, and ultimately stop the outbreak; to reduce Ebola-related deaths among those infected; and to provide protection, alleviate suffering and give assistance to affected children and families.
People who’ve been infected, as well as affected families and their children, including children orphaned by Ebola and unaccompanied children, continue to receive psychosocial support to help them cope with the consequences of the Ebola disease. UNICEF is also providing a protective environment for children in schools and nutrition assistance, including to children and adults in Ebola Treatment Centers.
“Our teams in Mangina, Beni, Oicha, Komanda, Butembo and Lubero are working tirelessly with this multi-pronged approach to end the Ebola outbreak as quickly as possible, and to help affected children and families,” stressed Dr. Rotigliano.
To date, UNICEF and its partners have reached out to more than 10 million people in affected areas with prevention messages in collaboration with community leaders and through mass media; provided drinking water to more than 1.3 million people in public places, health facilities and schools; and trained 8,146 teachers on Ebola prevention measures.
The agency has further reached 157,133 children in 888 schools with prevention messages; provided assistance to 830 families directly affected by Ebola; and identified 686 Ebola orphans and provided them with appropriate care.
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