DRC: Ebola outbreak is stabilizing, but risk remains high
“The situation has stabilised at the moment, but given the fear and resistance we’ve seen among some communities since the start of the outbreak, due to a lack of information and misunderstanding about the response, we fear that there are cases that have not yet been identified,” said Dr. Ommani Rouafi, ALIMA’s Medical Coordinator in Beni, where the humanitarian medical organization runs an Ebola treatment center. “Many people are afraid to go to the hospital due to rumors about the virus and the treatment.”
Contact tracing and surveillance are also made more complicated due to the ongoing security situation. The region has been plagued by decades of conflict and more than 100 armed groups continue to operate in the area, making some villages difficult to access.
Since the outbreak was declared by the Ministry of Health on August 1, there have been 137 reported cases of Ebola in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, according to the World Health Organization. 106 of these cases have been confirmed. 92 people have died, including a health worker.
In Beni, ALIMA’s medical teams continue to work alongside the Ministry of Health to care for patients at the 25-bed treatment center, which is equipped with 9 units of the CUBE, a biosecure emergency care unit for outbreaks of highly-infectious diseases. Since the start of the outbreak, 105 patients have been admitted, among whom 22 tested positive for the virus. At the treatment center in Beni, six patients who tested positive for Ebola and 2 patients suspected of having Ebola are currently being cared for.
“Together with our partners, we have health promotion teams that are working to educate families about Ebola and the available treatment, to answer their questions and dispel rumors about the treatment centers,” said Dr. Rouafi. “Ebola is a disease that can be cured with proper care, if the patient doesn’t wait until it is too late to come for treatment. It is possible to survive Ebola.”
ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) has been active in DRC since 2011. Our teams most recently responded to an outbreak of Ebola in Itipo, in the Equateur province, where we set up a 9-bed treatment center. More than 20 patients suspected of having Ebola received care.
Unlike many other Ebola Treatment Centers, where patients are isolated in multi-bed tents, thanks to ALIMA’s innovative CUBE, a biosecure emergency care unit for outbreaks of highly-infectious diseases, such as Ebola, family members of sick patients can remain in contact with their loved ones during treatment.
*This project in Beni is made possible thanks to generous funding from the World Health Organisation (WHO).