| Press release
DRC: Media statement on the end of the 13th Ebola outbreak
Beni/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 16 December 2021—The Red Cross of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) joins the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in celebrating the end of the 13th Ebola outbreak in the country.
The Minister of Public Health, Hygiene and Prevention of the DRC, officially declared, this 16 December 2021, the end of the 13th outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease which resurfaced on 8 October 2021, in the health zone of Beni in the province of North Kivu.
This declaration comes 42 days after the last patient tested negative.
A cumulative 11 cases were recorded during this 13th outbreak, including 8 deaths and 2 cured.
David Fisher, Head of the Country Cluster Delegation of the IFRC who is in DRC said:
“We are so happy to arrive at the declaration of the end of the 13th Ebola epidemic today. With support from IFRC, the DRC Red Cross and its local volunteers have been working every day in close coordination with health authorities and other partners to achieve this. And we will not be letting down our guard. Over the next few months of the surveillance period, we are expanding our reach to ensure that no new cases fall through the cracks.”
When the 13th outbreak was declared, the DRC Red Cross mobilized and deployed 215 trained volunteers to help contain the spread of the virus by providing services such as Community Engagement and Accountability (CEA), Prevention and Control of Infections (IPC), as well as Safe and Dignified Burials (SDB), with the support of the IFRC.
Volunteers responded to 429 alerts, provided 116 safe and dignified burials, secured 345 bodies, 28,708 people were reached by Ebola messages and 8,851 community returns were received and analysed.
A focus was also placed on vaccination.
Building on lessons learned and capacities developed in n the follow-up responses to the Ebola outbreaks across the country, volunteers have adapted messages and activities to the context of COVID-19. They shared vital information in public places, on community radio stations, on social media and through messaging apps. Red Cross teams have also set up "rapid response teams" made up of local volunteers who work with local health authorities to transfer positive cases of COVID-19 to safe treatment centres.
Grégoire Mateso, the National President of the DRC Red Cross explains the work carried out by the volunteers in these terms:
“Our volunteers have spared no effort to help those affected in the Beni health zone and we will continue to provide necessary services for the preparation and response to epidemics in the communities in order to preserve the well-being of populations. However, the end of an epidemic is the beginning of this preparation of the community to resist in case another does. Thus, the Red Cross will always be alongside communities in order to provide an adequate response in the event of an epidemic in order to support community resilience through the implementation of a more sustainable community health approach."
Despite the end of this outbreak, it is essential to maintain vigilance and strengthen post-epidemic prevention and surveillance activities in order to avoid the resurgence of the virus.
The epidemic did not spread outside of Beni. In addition to effective care and monitoring mechanisms, the success in the response is justified by a high rate of people already vaccinated against Ebola in the region, especially during the 10th epidemic, the deadliest in history of this disease.
For more information, contact:
Croix-Rouge de la RDC: Kally Maluku, +243 818 966 243, [email protected]
IFRC (DRC): Kelly Kulemfuka Minzas, +243 850 749 025, [email protected]
IFRC (Africa Region): Euloge Ishimwe, +254 735 437 906, [email protected]
| Press release
Ebola: Red Cross intensifies response amidst fears of regional spread
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 22 February 2021 – Red Cross teams in Guinea and across West Africa are ramping up response efforts to contain a deadly Ebola outbreak.
Red Cross volunteers and staff Guinea, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone have stepped up surveillance and community sensitization efforts. To support these live saving activities, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has issued an international emergency appeal for 8.5 million Swiss francs.
MohammedMukhier, the IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said:
“Ebola does not care about borders. Close social, cultural and economic ties between communities in Guinea and neighbouring countries create a very serious risk of the virus spreading to Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone, and potentially even further.
“That’s why we are launching an integrated cross-border operation aimed at rapidly confining the outbreak to its current location—and swiftly containing any eventual outbreak beyond Guinea.”
In Guinea, Red Cross teams in N’zérékoré were mobilized to conduct safe and dignified burials for two people who were killed by Ebola. They also disinfected a local hospital and started efforts to create broad community awareness about the return of the disease in the urban areas of N'Zérékoré and in Gouécké.
There are an estimated 1.3 million people living in the health zone affected by the outbreak. The Guinea Red Cross and IFRC plan aims to support about 420,000 of them with a range of services, including community sensitization, community-based surveillance, water, sanitation and hygiene, safe and dignified burials, infection prevention and control, as well as psychosocial support.
In surrounding countries, Red Cross actions will target an additional 6 million people. In Sierra Leone, a network 200 Red Cross volunteers in Kambia and Kailahun are now on high alert and are conducting surveillance activities. In addition, an alert was sent to the four other districts (Kono, Koinadugu, Western Area and Pujehun) bordering Guinea and Liberia, where an additional 100 volunteers are preparing social community awareness activities.
In Liberia, in areas along the borders with Guinea, Red Cross volunteers are on high alert and are currently conducting awareness in communities. The most at-risk areas include Bong, Lofa, Nimba, Cape Mount, and Gbarpolu counties. Liberia Red Cross will be sending Personal Protective Equipment to the region.
In Mali, Red Cross teams will provide services such as surveillance and community sensitization. The Senegalese Red Cross is beefing up surveillance efforts at border points, while ramping up community awareness activities.
In addition to enacting community response, surveillance and sensitization activities, Red Cross teams are also concerned about the needs being created by localized efforts to limit movements in a bid to contain the outbreak. As a result of these public health measures, people near the epicentre are already in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services as well as food assistance.
IFRC’s Mukhier said: “This outbreak is likely to complicate an already challenging situation. COVID-related containment measures currently being implemented have exacerbated food insecurity in the region and this may lead to the reluctance of communities to respect new preventive measures that are being put in place to contain Ebola.”
| Press release
Ebola outbreak in Guinea: Red Cross calls for a response that is “faster than the virus”
Conakry/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 February 2021 –A network of more than 700 trained Red Cross volunteers has been activated as part of a first wave of response to the new Ebola outbreak in the rural community of Gouéké in Guinea’s N’Zerekoreprefecture.
Drawing from theirexperienceduringthe2014–2016 West Africa Ebola outbreak,theRed Crossteams are rushing to contain further spread of the virus.
MohammedMukhier, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’ (IFRC) Regional Director for Africa said:
“Time is of the essence.The resurgence of the virus inGuineacomes at the worst possible time whenthe country isalreadyfacing theCOVID-19pandemic.There are reasons for fear, but there are also reasons for hope.While we are extremely concerned, we are also reassured bythelessons we learned from previous outbreaks, and by recent medical advances.”
More than 11,000 people were killed duringthe worst-everEbola outbreak in history in 2014-2016.
Mukhier said: “We need a response that is faster than the virus itself. Unless the response is swift, the health, economic and social impacts are likely to be immense for millions of peoplein a country witha relatively weak healthsystem, andwheremore than half of the population lives below the poverty line.”
In response to this new outbreak, the IFRC and Guinea Red Cross have activated their “epidemicpreparedness and response network”in the country.Through thissystem, Red Cross teamshavebeen helping communities prepare and prevent the spread of diseases.
Red Crossvolunteerswill provide services such as, contact tracing, psychosocial support, water, sanitation and hygiene and—if needed—safe burials.
Guinea Red Cross has almost 2,500 volunteers across the country which gives it extraordinary reach into communities.
| Press release
UNICEF, WHO, IFRC and MSF announce the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile
NEW YORK/ GENEVA, 12 JANUARY 2021: The four leading international health and humanitarian organizations announced today the establishment of a global Ebola vaccine stockpile to ensure outbreak response.
The effort to establish the stockpile was led by the International Coordinating Group (ICG) on Vaccine Provision, which includes the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), with financial support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The stockpile will allow countries, with the support of humanitarian organizations, to contain future Ebola epidemics by ensuring timely access to vaccines for populations at risk during outbreaks.
The injectable single-dose Ebola vaccine (rVSV∆G-ZEBOV-GP, live) is manufactured by Merck, Sharp & Dohme (MSD) Corp. and developed with financial support from the US government. The European Medicines Agency licensed the Ebola vaccine in November 2019, and the vaccine is now prequalified by WHO, and licensed by the US Food and Drug Administration as well as in eight African countries.
Before achieving licensure, the vaccine was administered to more than 350,000 people in Guinea and in the 2018-2020 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo under a protocol for “compassionate use”.
The vaccine, which is recommended by the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization for use in Ebola outbreaks as part of a broader set of Ebola outbreak response tools, protects against the Zaire ebolavirus species which is most commonly known to cause outbreaks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is reminding us of the incredible power of vaccines to save lives from deadly viruses,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Ebola vaccines have made one of the most feared diseases on earth preventable. This new stockpile is an excellent example of solidarity, science and cooperation between international organizations and the private sector to save lives.”
UNICEF manages the stockpile on behalf of the ICG which, as with stockpiles of cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines, will be the decision-making body for its allocation and release.
The stockpile is stored in Switzerland and ready to be shipped to countries for emergency response. The decision to allocate the vaccine will be made within 48 hours of receiving a request from a country; vaccines will be made available together with ultra-cold chain packaging by the manufacturer for shipment to countries within 48 hours of the decision. The targeted overall delivery time from the stockpile to countries is seven days.
“We are proud to be part of this unprecedented effort to help bring potential Ebola outbreaks quickly under control,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “We know that when it comes to disease outbreaks, preparedness is key. This Ebola vaccine stockpile is a remarkable achievement - one that will allow us to deliver vaccines to those who need them the most as quickly as possible.”
As Ebola outbreaks are relatively rare and unpredictable, there is no natural market for the vaccine. Vaccines are only secured through the establishment of the stockpile and are available in limited quantities. The Ebola vaccine is reserved for outbreak response to protect people at the highest risk of contracting Ebola – including healthcare and frontline workers.
“This is an important milestone. Over the past decade alone we have seen Ebola devastate communities in West and Central Africa, always hitting the poorest and most vulnerable the hardest,” said IFRC Secretary General, Jagan Chapagain. “Through each outbreak, our volunteers have risked their lives to save lives. With this stockpile, it is my hope that the impact of this terrible disease will be dramatically reduced.”
“The creation of an Ebola vaccine stockpile under the ICG is a positive step”, said Dr Natalie Roberts, Programme Manager, MSF Foundation. “Vaccination is one of the most effective measures to respond to outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases, and Ebola is no exception. An Ebola vaccine stockpile can increase transparency in the management of existing global stocks and the timely deployment of the vaccine where it’s most needed, something MSF has called for during recent outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of Congo.”
An initial 6,890 doses are now available for outbreak response with further quantities to be delivered into the stockpile this month and throughout 2021 and beyond. Depending on the rate of vaccine deployment, it could take 2 to 3 years to reach the SAGE-recommended level of 500,000 doses for the emergency stockpile of Ebola vaccines. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi and vaccine manufacturers are continuously assessing options to increase vaccine supply should global demand increase.
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| Press release
DR Congo: The latest Ebola outbreak is over, but major challenges remain
Goma/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 18 November 2020 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) joins the people of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in celebrating the end of the country’s 11th Ebola outbreak. This achievement marks the first time in about two and a half years since DRC was Ebola free.
However, the IFRC warns that today’s announcement does not spell the end of the considerable humanitarian challenges that the country is facing, including the ongoing COVID-19 emergency alongside long-standing economic and security issues.
The official end of the Ebola outbreak follows 42 days since the last patient tested negative and comes six months after a cluster of Ebola cases was detected in Equateur province in the country’s north-west. The outbreak, the second to affect Equateur and the third nationwide since 2018 – spread to 13 of the region’s 18 health zones.
Mohammed Omer Mukhier, IFRC’s Regional Director for Africa said responders deserve a tremendous amount of recognition and thanks:
“The courage and dedication of frontline responders – including Red Cross volunteers – is a major factor in the successful response to this outbreak. Their work is even more remarkable given that it came at a time of tremendous additional uncertainty that was brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank them, and we thank our donors and partners who joined us in ‘staying the course’.”
When the outbreak was first detected on June 1, more than 1,000 trained Red Cross volunteers were deployed immediately to help contain the spread of the virus. They screened over 279,177 people scattered over vast, densely forested areas. They also conducted more than 232 safe and dignified burials and reached more than 343,859 people with information sharing and accountability activities. Their actions come after three consecutive Red Cross responses since 2018 to the country’s 9th 10th and 11th Ebola outbreaks, bringing the total number of people reached with life-saving information to more than 4,892,531 million, with our teams leading more than 12,708 safe and dignified burials.
This milestone comes as the country continues to face the COVID-19 pandemic. Red Cross teams are building on lessons learned and capacities built during the response to Ebola outbreaks and adapting messaging and activities to the COVID-19 context. They are sharing lifesaving information in public places, on community radio stations, on social media and through messaging applications. Red Cross teams have also put in place ‘rapid response teams’ of local volunteers who collaborate with local health authorities to transfer positive COVID-19 cases to treatment centres safely.
Dr Jacques Katshishi, Secretary General for the DRC Red Cross, said it is not the time to leave vulnerable Congolese communities behind.
“Bringing Ebola to zero is a huge achievement, but now we are faced with our next challenge: keeping it there. Our teams within the DRC Red Cross are facing COVID-19 within a complex humanitarian and security environment, making the ongoing support of donors’ and partners’ vital to ensuring that the positive gains communities have made are not reversed. This is not a moment to be complacent: the world cannot afford a resurgence of Ebola in DR Congo. The time to prepare is now,” he said.
| Press release
DR Congo: Red Cross volunteers attacked during Ebola burial
Goma/Nairobi/Geneva, 15 January 2020 – Two volunteers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) Red Cross were seriously injured following an attack during a safe and dignified burial of a suspected Ebola case near Mambasa, in eastern DR Congo on Monday, 13 January. The volunteers are now in hospital, receiving medical care and psychosocial support.
DR Congo Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence and aggression from communities resisting safe and dignified burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri. In this most recent attack, the family had consented to the burial but rumours and panic quickly spread among the community resulting in a violent assault against the Red Cross team.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta, President of the DR Congo Red Cross Society said:
“This incident is a stark reminder of the serious risks our volunteers face when they carry out the dangerous task of safe and dignified burials. While we deplore any violence towards our volunteers or staff, we understand first hand, the fear and frustration that communities harbour and shall continue to render the needed services to the affected populations.”
The current Ebola outbreak, which began on 1 August 2018, is unfolding in an area affected by a two decades-long conflict that has claimed countless lives and raised fear and hostility towards responders.
Building community trust and acceptance has been at the core of the Red Cross’ Ebola response operations.This investment has paid off. Since the beginning of the outbreak nearly 20,000 successful safe and dignified burials have been conducted with a consistently high success rate.
Red Cross volunteers continue to work within affected communities, listening to concerns and gathering feedback that is then analysed and used to provide improved support to people in need. As a result, community resistance for safe and dignified burials has drastically declined over the course of the operation.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Operations Manager for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“While we experienced an overall improvement in community’s acceptance of burials, this attack underscores why we cannot become complacent. The Red Cross will continue to engage and involve communities in the Ebola response if we want to bring this outbreak to end.”
| Press release
Tragic attacks on responders and increased violence threaten to reverse positive gains in Ebola response, warns Red Cross
Goma/Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 28 November 2019 –Several violent attacks in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) have killed, wounded and displaced many. Those killed included four Ebola responders.
The President of DR Congo Red Cross, Grégoire Mateso, said:
“We are profoundly saddened by the tragic killings of people, including several Ebola responders in Mangina and Biakatou following violent attacks. We are also extremely worried by the escalating violence in Beni.”
The spike in violence in recent days has also forced communities to flee for their safety, making it easier for the virus to spread to neighbouring areas. Mangina and Biakatou are areas where there are the highest rates of Ebola cases at the moment. Red Cross teams in Beni are unable to travel due to the ongoing violence, and insecurity in other areas have put Red Cross Ebola activities on hold.
“In the last few months we have made major progress in the Ebola response: Cases are decreasing, there are less deaths in the community and a growing community acceptance and involvement in the Ebola response,”said Jamie LeSueur, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC)’s Head of Operations for the Ebola Response. “But violence and insecurity are major factors that set us back and threaten to reverse all the positive gains we have made in this response.”
More than 1,100 DRC Red Cross volunteers have been engaging with communities to address fear, suspicion and concerns;conducting safe and dignified burials, and helping improve infection prevention and control in health facilities and prisons.These teams have been critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the many lives.
“Without Red Cross staff and volunteers having access to respond in hot spot areas, the risk of Ebola’s spread is extremely high. We’re worried about what this could mean for our frontline staff and volunteers who are risking their lives every day to engage with affected communities,”said Grégoire Mateso.
“We call on all actors to exercise restraint and respect civilians and humanitarian and Ebola responders.”
Placing communities at the centre of the Ebola response
In many Ebola-affected areas, years of conflict has eroded basic services and created mistrust in the community. Many communities feel that the response is not addressing their broader humanitarian needs.On some occasions, this mistrust has led to confrontations. DRC Red Cross teams have faced incidents of violence and aggression from communities resisting safe and dignified burial protocols since the start of the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu.
It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders, which stops them from accessing health care. There may be many more potential cases in communities that we are unaware of, who are not accessing lifesaving care and may be further transmitting the virus within their communities.
Communities hold the key to responding to the Ebola outbreak.
Without communities, Ebola cannot be eliminated. We need to listen to community concerns and fears, plan together with them and adapt our response in order to create trust and acceptance by humanitarian actors.
Red Cross volunteers are playing a vital role in maintaining a strong dialogue with communities, ensuring questions, misbelieves and rumours are discussed and addressed regularly. In partnership with the US Centre of Disease Control, Red Cross volunteers are collecting rumours, suspicions and concerns into a first-of-its-kind feedback and tracking system that has coded over 394,000 feedback points.This is shared with the rest of the humanitarian community to help address fears and misinformation as well as adapt and change operational approaches, based on the needs of the community.
Working with Ebola survivors to help tackle myths and rumours
To help tackle the fear and mistrust associated with Ebola, Red Cross is also working with survivors. People like 25-year-old carpenter, Machozi, has an incredible story to tell — and an important message for his community.
“This illness is real and it kills,” says Machozi, who just a few months earlier had contracted this lethal disease and survived.
But he is now living proof that you can also survive. Machozi is one of many in the response efforts. Every day, volunteers are knocking on doors in the community, providing information on how to prevent, detect and respond to Ebola. They are hosting radio talk shows, setting up mobile cinemas andgoing house-to-house, sensitizing vulnerable communities, including people with disabilities, children and women’s groups.
“We have to unite and work together to fight against Ebola,” he says.
“Take me as living testimony. It is possible to save the community and survive Ebola if everyone, our young people above all, engage in sensitizing our communities to the idea that Ebola is not aconsidered a punishment or an invented disease. If everyone is involved, we can end this disease.”
Engaging communities pays off
We are seeing huge success when we address core community concerns. The success rate of Red Cross safe and dignified burials has remained consistently high at 80 per cent, while negative feedback has dropped over time as a result of quality community engagement work and changes in the Red Cross approaches based on feedback data. In addition, as a result of our community engagement, community resistance for safe and dignified burials have drastically declined from 79 per cent in the first two months of the operation to 8 per cent now.
Special thanks to our generous donors: American Red Cross, Austrian Red Cross, Belgian Red Cross, British Red Cross, China Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Finnish Red Cross, Icelandic Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross, Kuwait Red Crescent, Norwegian Red Cross, Monaco Red Cross, SpanishRed Cross, Swiss Red Cross, Canadian Red Cross, Netherlands Red Cross, Turkish Red Crescent, Government of Austria, Government of United Kingdom (DFID), European Commission (DG ECHO), Italian Government Bilateral Emergency Fund, Government of Norway, Paul G Allen Family Foundation, Government of Spain, Government of Switzerland, Government of Canada, The Dutch Government, USAID, Western Union Foundation and WHO.
| Press release
Ebola: As death toll approaches 2,000, vaccines, treatment and behaviour change equally important
Nairobi/Geneva 27 August 2019—The availability of an effective vaccine against Ebola and the recent confirmation of two effective treatments do not negate the importance of building trust and understanding in communities affected by the outbreak, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
This warning comes as the death toll for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) approaches 2,000 and as the total number of cases reaches 3,000.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care said:
“The importance of these new treatments – and the continued roll out of vaccines – are not to be underestimated. But alone they are not enough. Now is the time to double down on efforts to engage at-risk communities. For the treatments to work, people need to trust them and the medical staff who administer them. This will take time, resources and a lot of hard work.”
Continued high levels of distrust mean that many Ebola patients are delaying or avoiding going to health facilities. This reluctance significantly decreases their chance of survival, even with access to the newest treatments. It also dramatically increases the risk that the virus will spread to family members and other care givers. More than 42 per cent of alerts that Red Cross receives to bury a loved one are coming from a death at home.
IFRC’s Capobianco said:
“We are asking people to leave the safety of their homes when they fall sick to go to an isolated cell in an Ebola treatment centres where their lives are in the hands of complete strangers. We are asking communities to change the way they care for the sick and the dead in ways that go against their traditions. And we are doing all this in communities that have learned to distrust outsiders following decades of violence and unrest.
“This is our biggest challenge. It is a behavioural challenge, not a medical one. And unfortunately, there is no magic pill to change behaviours.”
Two new treatments that are hailed as an effective cure against Ebola are currently being administered in Ebola treatment centres all over North Kivu and Ituri. IFRC believes that if people understand that the treatment can save lives and can reduce the risk of transmission to their loved ones, they are more likely to seek health care early.
In addition to community outreach and engagement, Red Cross volunteers continue to carry out around 20 safe and dignified burials every day. Volunteers and other burial teams have responded to more than 11,000 safe and dignified burial requests across North Kivu and Ituri provinces.
IFRC is appealing for about 43 million Swiss francs to continue safe and dignified burials and to support 15.5 million people with community outreach, prevention, and preparedness measures. So far, just over half of the amount needed has been received.
| Press release
DR Congo: Expanded humanitarian response critical to ending Ebola outbreak says IFRC
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 1 Aug 2019 – A year on, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) continues to spread into new areas across North Kivu and Ituri. An average of 13 new cases are reported daily, in the last three months, as insecurity, community resistance and massive unmet humanitarian needs continue to hamper the international response.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, Director of Health and Care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“There is now a collective recognition that this terrible virus can only be stopped in its tracks when communities are engaged and placed at the centre of the response efforts.”
Alongside Ebola, ongoing measles and cholera outbreaks in DR Congo have killed more than 1,800 people in the last year. In addition, two decades of violence and conflict have deprived millions of access to basic services like health and education.
“Communities continue to be suspicious of the Ebola response because they feel that it is not addressing their broader needs. Moving forward in this response, we need to ensure that we are adequately responding to the priorities and concerns of these communities. This means expanding the response to include broader health and humanitarian needs.”
The confirmation on 30 July of a second case in Goma has underlined the importance of scaling up efforts to fight Ebola. The Red Cross has already been working in Goma, preparing communities, ensuring they understand how to prevent infections as well as recognize and respond to potential symptoms.
Since the beginning of this outbreak, Red Cross response efforts have focused on community engagement and safe and dignified burials. Volunteers are working within the affected communities, listening to concerns and gathering feedback that is then analysed and used to provide improved support to people in need.
In areas where Red Cross community engagement volunteers are working, there have been more than 9,400 community requests for safe and dignified burials. More than 1,500 Red Cross volunteers have been trained to do this difficult and dangerous work and over 1.3 million people have been reached with information to protect themselves and their communities.
| Press release
Red Cross on alert as Uganda confirms first Ebola case
Kampala/Nairobi/Geneva, 12 June – Red Cross teams are on high alert following the confirmation of the first Ebola case in Uganda.
According to the Ministry of Health, a five-year-old boy from Uganda returned from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) on 10 June. The child presented with Ebola symptoms and was transferred to an Ebola treatment unit in Bwera.
Robert Kwesiga, Uganda Red Cross Secretary General, said:
“This is a worrying development, but we have been preparing for this day for months now. We have been scaling up our efforts, in close coordination with government and other actors to help communities prepare for Ebola, and to contain its spread.”
The Uganda border is close to the epicentre of the DR Congo outbreak, which is now the second largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has trained hundreds of community-based volunteers in anticipation of the potential spread of Ebola. Volunteers have been trained in Ebola screening, as well as in risk communication and community engagement, community-based surveillance, and psychosocial support. In addition, Red Cross has procured equipment for safe and dignified burials and has provided training and technical support to Ministry of Health which will lead on the delivery of safe and dignified burials in Uganda.
Andreas Sandin, IFRC Operations Coordinator, said:
“We are ready to adapt and expand our support, but we must take stock of the lessons we have learned from the response in DR Congo.
“Epidemics and pandemics start and end in the communities – we need to ensure this remains a community-led response to ensure we prevent Ebola’s further spread.”
IFRC is also supporting the National Red Cross Societies of Burundi, Rwanda and South Sudan to prepare for the potential spread of Ebola into their countries.
| Press release
IFRC calls for “reset” of Ebola response as cases surpass 2,000
Geneva/Nairobi, 4 June 2019 – Aid organisations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to “reset” their response to the current Ebola outbreak and place more emphasis on understanding and addressing persistent community fears, mistrust and concerns.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“The Ebola response effort has undoubtedly saved lives and helped prevent the spread of this disease beyond North Kivu and Ituri. We’ve now reached more than 2,000 Ebola cases and the numbers being reported have risen dramatically. We need to reset the response, and place communities at the centre of all of our efforts.”
More than 1,300 people have died in what is now the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Worryingly, the number of Ebola cases has increased significantly in recent weeks to between 15-20 new cases per day.
This escalation is at least in part due to the precarious security situation in the affected area. Ebola responders do not only face resistance from communities but are also exposed to threats and attacks by armed groups. IFRC is concerned that partners limit their use of security or military support as much as possible. Increasing armed protection for Ebola responders may aggravate the tensions that already exist between communities and responders.
With the announcement last week by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of a scale up of the Ebola response, now is the time to critically look at how we change our approach with communities.
“We welcome the commitment of partners to scale up the response to this outbreak. But we need to ensure we do this in the right way. As a humanitarian community, we need to invest more in locally-led response approaches. This outbreak will only end when communities are engaged and leading the response efforts themselves.”
| Press release
DR Congo: We cannot scale down while Ebola escalates, says IFRC
Geneva, 16 May 2019 – The international community must urgently increase its investment in Ebola response efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo before the outbreak escalates further, warns the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Despite some successes in containing the outbreak, there has been an alarming increase in new cases in recent weeks. Twenty per cent of the 1,671 cases recorded up to 11 May occurred during the last three weeks, according to figures from the DR Congo Ministry of Health. Since the outbreak started in August 2018, more than 1,100 people have died, making this the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history.
Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, said:
“The Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding. The security situation is complex, and will require a range of responses, including continued increased community engagement. However, the funding situation could be fixed. We need more investment now.
“We cannot afford for Ebola to become entrenched in North Kivu and Ituri, nor can we allow it to spread to urban areas where it will be much more difficult to control. And we cannot allow it to cross international borders.”
Red Cross volunteers come from the affected communities and are constantly engaging with them to address fear, suspicion and concerns about outside help as well as the efficacy of the Ebola response.
Their work is often painstaking. But it is successful. For example, in areas where Red Cross community engagement volunteers have been able to work, community requests for safe and dignified burials have sharply increased. More than 5,000 burials have now been requested since the outbreak started. The success rate of the burials has remained consistently high at around 80 per cent.
Safe and dignified burials are important because of the dangers presented by Ebola-infected bodies. For example, during the 2013-16 West Africa outbreak, 60 per cent of all Ebola cases in Guinea were linked to traditional burials. In parts of Sierra Leone, this figure climbed to 80 per cent.
“In DR Congo, we have trained more than 1,500 volunteers to conduct burials in a manner that is safe, dignified and culturally sensitive. They are critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the lives of friends and families in their communities,” said Capobianco.
“Now is not the time to let our guard down. Now is the time to double down. Collectively, we have the tools to contain, control and end this outbreak.”
| Press release
Ebola death toll passes 1,000 as outbreak continues to worsen
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 4 May 2019 – The Ebola outbreak in North Kivu is worsening as the death toll surpasses 1,000 on the back of an alarming number of cases reported in recent days across multiple hotspots.
In the past week, 23 cases were reported in one day, the highest since the start of the outbreak in August 2018. Major security challenges and lack of community acceptance of the response continue to hamper efforts to end the outbreak.
Worryingly, many of these deaths are occurring within communities which means that people are not seeking care and treatment in health centres. This is accelerating the spread of Ebola within communities.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said:
“We are at a critical juncture where we need to step up our support to communities that are facing greater risk of infection, yet Ebola responders face massive security challenges and a lack of resources for the response. An under-resourced operation creates a very real risk of an international spread of Ebola.”
Ebola response activities are costly. Safe and dignified burials are crucial to containing the outbreak. But they are also expensive--costing up to 500,000 Swiss francs a month-- as they require specialized equipment which is often not reusable and must be disposed of after each single burial.
Despite security challenges, Red Cross volunteers continue to carry out safe and dignified burials where possible. Volunteers and other burial teams have responded to more than 5,000 safe and dignified burial requests across North Kivu and Ituri provinces. They have been successful nearly 80 per cent of the time.
“Building community trust takes time and resources, but we have seen the investment pay off when it comes to acceptance of Red Cross safe and dignified burial teams. Since October 2018 the number of safe and dignified burials requested from communities has tripled, and this kind of work needs to continue if we are going to beat this disease,” said Nicole Fassina.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an Emergency Appeal to support 15.5 million people to undertake preparedness and prevention work to stop the spread of the disease but has only received just under half the funding required.
IFRC is also supporting localized efforts to keep the outbreak from spreading to Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. This includes supporting National Societies to mobilize and train volunteers, procure equipment and put in place preparedness measures should the outbreak spread to these countries.
| Press release
Understanding and working with communities is essential to end Ebola, says IFRC Secretary General
Kinshasa/Nairobi/Geneva, 20 March 2019 – The Secretary General of the world’s largest humanitarian network has called on organizations responding to Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to place more emphasis on deepening understanding of communities and partnering with them to respond to their needs.
Speaking at the end of a three day visit to the DRC, Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“Communities are key to ending Ebola. Only with their engagement and active participation will we be able to stop this outbreak. Fear, resistance and even denial are often encountered when people are overwhelmed by shocks, hazards and epidemics; but they can be overcome building on community norms, values and social capital.”
“Mistrust, coupled with violence and insecurity, challenge our response; so we welcome the growing concerted efforts to actively listen to communities and accompany them to be part of the solution,” said Mr Sy.
Ebola operations in North Kivu have been hampered by violence against responders and treatment facilities. However, despite these challenges, 1,300 Red Cross volunteers, all from Ebola-affected communities, are continuing to conduct safe and dignified burials and are involved in community engagement and accountability work. They have conducted nearly 2,500 safe burials, almost five times more than the officially reported number of Ebola deaths. They further reached close to 905,000 people with locally adapted information and collected their feedback to continuously improve on our response.
The Ebola outbreak which began in August 2018, has hit communities in 20 health zones in North Kivu and Ituri provinces. It has not spread to other urban areas or across the border into neighbouring countries of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, and South Sudan; but the risk remains very high.
“Ebola does not respect borders. We are treating this as a regional threat and calling for urgent scale up of preparedness efforts in North Kivu and Ituri provinces and in neighbouring countries,” said Mr Sy.
The DRC Red Cross is set to strengthen its Ebola operation with the support of Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement partners.
Mr Sy travelled to Kinshasa, Goma and Bunia alongside Henrietta Fore, Executive Director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Mark Lowcock, Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA). They met with the President of DRC and Head of State, Felix Tshisekedi, other Government representatives, Red Cross staff and volunteers and humanitarian partners involved in the Ebola response
Early detection, early action: preventing DRC’s Ebola outbreak from spreading into nearby Uganda
Communities living along the porous borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remain at high risk of the spread of Ebola. Thousands cross each day to sell and buy goods, tend to their farm and visit family and friends. With the epicentre of DRC’s largest Ebola outbreak only 100 kilometers away from the Ugandan border, it is crucial to contain and stop the virus from spreading.
Uganda Red Cross, with support from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has been scaling up its response to help prepare communities and to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers are in high-risk areas, sensitizing communities about Ebola – providing information about the virus, what they can do to protect themselves, and screening the thousands of individuals who cross the border each day. Community engagement through music, drama, and mobile cinemas have also been employed to reach thousands of people.
“We would like to see communities that can easily detect diseases, potential epidemics and communities that can respond in case epidemics occur,” said Dr. Kasumba Joseph, Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program Officer with the Uganda Red Cross.
“Most importantly we want communities that can actually prevent these epidemics. We are doing this through our volunteers.”
Karungi Shamillahis a Uganda Red Cross volunteer trained to educate families about Ebola and other health issues in her community.Photo: IFRC/Corrie Butler
Halting the virus before its spread through a real-time mobile system
Through Uganda Red Cross’ extensive network of community-based volunteers, a powerful surveillance system has been set up, in coordination with other actors and the Ministry of Health. This system helps stop the virus’ spread, detecting outbreaks before they happen.
Uganda Red Cross has trained community-based volunteers to recognize the signs of potential Ebola illness and to alert the authorities for follow up and care of people with such signs. With the help of the ‘Kobo Collect’ Mobile App, these cases are logged and are instantly shared with local health authorities for rapid action. If a case is detected the person can receive prompt treatment and the disease can be contained. This enables the reporting of any epidemic alerts in real time with low costs and resources.
“These communities being near the border are quite vulnerable. We have a lot of movement across the border, especially on market days, the risk of an Ebola outbreak is imminent,” says Kasumba, based in Bundibugyo.
“We have now trained 50 community-based volunteers who are using this technology as a surveillance tool to help prevent the threat of Ebola in Uganda.”
Only weeks after the training, volunteers have already started working in their communities where they hold sessions with community members and sensitize them about Ebola. Others, like Mugenyi Adam, have already sent out alerts to their supervisor.
“I have so far sent two alerts to my supervisor. I am proud that the community trusts me already and in case of any suspicions, I am the first one they call. This is what makes me proud – the response is so, so fast.”
He recalls one alert he submitted after conducting door to door community sensitization:
“A lady called me and told me her grand-daughter was sick, showing some of the symptoms of Ebola. I called my supervisor and informed him about it. I was amazed to see a response in just 25 minutes. They checked on the girl, took her to hospital and fortunately she tested negative for Ebola. I kept checking on the family to ensure that they were doing the right hygiene practices. I am so proud, I believe I saved her life.”
In Bundibugyo district, volunteers are conducting, what is called “passive” community-based surveillance. This means volunteers report alerts as they encounter them in the community while they conduct community health awareness activities. During large scale outbreaks, surveillance moves into an “active” phase where volunteers proactively reach out door-to-door ensuring alerts are quickly identified for a faster, more effective response.
Community-based surveillance, on its own, is not enough: coordination is key
Well before the community-based surveillance system was launched through the IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3), significant coordination was done with stakeholders, including government ministries, health care workers, sectors for animal health, agriculture and environment, development partners, civil society, and the communities themselves.
“We have been trained in this approach by the Red Cross and we have worked closely with them to tackle community epidemics in this region. Given that Ebola is the major threat at the moment, all efforts have been focused on prevention and preparedness because of our proximity to neighboring Congo where Ebola has already killed many people,” said Dr. Samson Ndyanabaisi, the District Veterinary Officer in Bundibugyo district.
“The future of this project is very bright and the government always welcomes such support and collaborations.”
Communities remain at the heart of preparedness
With epidemics and pandemics continuing to take place around the world, it is increasingly important to ensure communities are prepared to respond in order to stop outbreaks early. Ebola is only one of the many health risks that IFRC’s CP3 is helping combat. The vision is that Uganda will use this as a model and continue to expand it to other epidemic and pandemic risks that are faced in the community, such as cholera or measles.
“As the Red Cross, we’re very strong at mobilizing to support communities when something happens. We’re one of the first who are there to take action. But we can do better than this,” explains Abbey Byrne, Community Based Surveillance Delegate with the IFRC.
“We’re also there before the epidemic. We can halt the spread instead of reacting once these diseases have already reached epidemic proportions.”
There is no one who understands a community more than its own. When challenges arise, they are the ones best suited to come up with the solutions. During epidemics, these community members are the first to respond and can, ultimately, save lives.
More about the CP3 programme
Launched in 2017 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), IFRC’s Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Program (CP3) scales up efforts towards global health security. The program strengthens the ability of communities, National Societies and other partners in 8 target countries to prevent, detect and respond to disease threats and play a significant role in preparing for future risks.