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Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC

by International Medical Corps
Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC
Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC
Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC
Emergency Response to the Ebola Outbreak in DRC
Sanitizing all the equipment, even the boots.
Sanitizing all the equipment, even the boots.

On June 11, 2019, the first Ebola case was confirmed in Uganda, making this the first case linked to the outbreak outside of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the second largest outbreak in history. As of June 23, 2019, there were 2,269 suspected cases of Ebola with 2,145 confirmed and 1,506 fatalities in 24 health zones of the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the DRC, according to the Ministry of Health.

Our team currently provides services to prevent and treat cases of Ebola in the DRC. To date, International Medical Corps has provided care to 186 confirmed and 571 suspected Ebola patients at our Ebola Treatment Centers; conducted more than 990,000 screenings for Ebola; trained over 1,300 health staff on proper infection prevention and control; and reached nearly 63,000 people through community engagement on prevention and treatment.

As our teams continue to care for those infected with the highly contagious virus, one of the many “must-have” items needed before the facility could accept its first patients presents a special logistical challenge: clean water. Water’s role in Ebola treatment goes beyond the task of keeping the patients hydrated as they endure vomiting and diarrhea triggered by the hemorrhagic virus.

Water is essential for the safe handling and disposal of Ebola-contaminated human waste, and for adhering to the strict procedures essential to maintaining safe hygiene. Water, sanitation and hygiene specialists estimate that the daily clean water needs for an Ebola treatment center today are as high as 400 liters per bed to treat patients and maintain the level of infection prevention needed to keep all staff and areas of the treatment facility safe.

Chlorinated water plays an important role in enabling the staff to keep the facility itself clean, and — more important still — themselves safe from exposure to the deadly virus. Healthcare staff must be followed by infection prevention and control teams who use spray wands connected to canisters of chlorinated water from boreholes to disinfect every footstep taken until every piece of equipment are removed, sprayed and quarantined to dry, right down to the boots.

Thank you to our GlobalGiving community and other donors, who help us continue to promote clean water, sanitation and hygiene in every response wherever and whenever it is needed most.

Preventing transmission starts with the staff.
Preventing transmission starts with the staff.
Preparing to treat an Ebola patient.
Preparing to treat an Ebola patient.
Community health workers learning about Ebola
Community health workers learning about Ebola

According to the latest Ministry of Health report, as of March 24, 2019, the number of cumulative cases official rises to a total of 1009, with 944 confirmed cases and 65 probable cases of Ebola, and 629 fatalities. Ebola has now spread across more than 20 health zones and two provinces. Never before have Ebola response teams faced active insecurity, community resistance and urban transmission simultaneously, all of which are weakening the effectiveness and reach of critical surveillance and prevention activities in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

With misinformation and fear of Ebola, communities have been highly resistant to response efforts, contributing to the rapid and ongoing spread of the disease. Many individuals and families keep loved ones at home when they become symptomatic, flee from health facilities and checkpoints after presenting with a fever, and refuse vaccinations and follow-up. These actions leave communities and health workers extremely vulnerable to undocumented transmissions of the virus.

In order to address these concerns, we are conducting community engagement through community health workers (CHW) and community-based organizations. He goes on to explain that these CHWs and CBOs visit households in vulnerable areas, lead educational talks on Ebola, and facilitate awareness sessions about the disease. Trained to detect and raise alerts on potential cases, CHWs also play a key role in discovering new cases and contacts in their communities.

“Identifying a case early is extremely important,” explains Dr. Cimanuka, the medical coordinator of the International Medical Corps Ebola response program in the DRC and one of our program’s trainers. It’s also important to break down resistance to the presence of health workers involved with the Ebola response, he says, and he is proud that staff members have been able to use their newly gained knowledge to engage leaders of communities. To date, International Medical Corps’ community engagement activities have reached more than 54,010 people.

“Those who had initial doubts if Ebola was dangerous came to understand quickly just how real and how serious the Ebola Virus Disease is,” says Dr. Nzanzu, a chief physician of Luotu in North Kivu province. The training provided by International Medical Corps “was great timing for .”

We thank the GlobalGiving community for your continuing support of our efforts to bring an end to this dangerous Ebola outbreak.

Healthcare workers at one of our Ebola facilities
Healthcare workers at one of our Ebola facilities
Our team engaging with communities on outreach
Our team engaging with communities on outreach
Doctors go to provide Ebola treatment
Doctors go to provide Ebola treatment

On August 1, 2018 the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) confirmed an Ebola outbreak in North Kivu Province. As of December 25, there are 585 confirmed or probable cases – making this Ebola outbreak the second largest in history. So far, the outbreak has resulted in 356 deaths and spread across 16 health zones in two provinces, North Kivu and Ituri.

One of the greatest barriers to containing this deadly outbreak is the active armed conflict which limits the ability of health workers to access certain areas. Health workers are also facing community resistance to vaccination, treatment and safe burials, which increases the risks for responders while making it probable that the virus will continue to spread.

Despite these challenges, International Medical Corps is on the ground helping to stop the spread of this deadly outbreak as quickly as possible. To address the resistance to seek treatment and to report neighbors or family members who are sick, we are launching community engagement activities, collaborating with health workers to raise community awareness of Ebola and the dangers it poses.

We’ve also constructed more than 30 screening and referral units, which our teams utilized in the 2014 West Africa Ebola outbreak to provide staff with the training, resources and infrastructure needed to safely screen every patient, visitor and staff member with no-touch temperature checks and rapid assessments for Ebola-like symptoms each time they enter a health site. In the DRC, these units enabled health staff to conduct approximately 375,000 screenings to-date for individuals entering health sites to prevent the spread of disease.

In North Kivu province, our teams are operating an Ebola Treatment Center (ETC) – one of six active ETCs in the region – to care for and treat suspected and confirmed cases as effectively as possible.

Davis, International Medical Corps’ Communications and Information Officer in the DRC, notes that, “With new cases in the Mabalako health zone, the original site of the outbreak, our staff has admitted more than 80 suspected and confirmed patients at the Mangina ETC [within Mabalako] since the beginning of December. As patients continue to arrive at the late and final stages of the disease, our teams are working around the clock to provide treatment to patients from the rural communities surrounding Mangina.”

We deeply appreciate the GlobalGiving community’s support as we work to stop the spread of this Ebola outbreak. Thank you.

IPC training in Butembo Health Zone
IPC training in Butembo Health Zone
Staff prepare to provide care for Ebola patient
Staff prepare to provide care for Ebola patient
Team Members at the Ebola Treatment Center
Team Members at the Ebola Treatment Center

As of September 24, the Ministry of Health had reported over 150 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola —and 100 deaths — across North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The areas of Beni, Butembo, Mabalako in North Kivu, and of Mandima in Ituri, are among those most affected.

A new case in Ituri Province is a cause for particular concern, as the patient was a contact of a confirmed Ebola case but declined medical follow-up and vaccination, and fled, ultimately passing. The high movement raises fear for continuous spread of Ebola.

Exacerbating efforts, the ongoing conflict and increasingly dangerous security incidents within the Ebola-affected area are severely limiting the movement of aid organizations and health officials working to contain the outbreak. On Saturday, September 22, at least 21 people were killed in an attack in the town of Beni, where most of the humanitarian agencies are based.

Dr. Peter Salama, the World Health Organization emergency response chief, recently stated that, “We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming together over the next weeks to months to create a potential perfect storm. A perfect storm of active conflict, limiting our ability to access civilians, distress by segments of the community, already traumatized by decades of conflict and of murder.”

Despite these challenges, our teams are working to help contain the virus as quickly as possible. Co-managed by the Ministry of Health, we have opened a 20-bed Ebola Treatment Center in Makeke, in Ituri province – about a one-hour drive from Beni.

To strengthen infection prevention and control measures, we have trained 215 doctors, nurses, and hygienists at health centers, hospitals, and health posts in Ebola-affected areas. In North Kivu, teams have now screened more than 29,000 individuals across four screening-and-referral units (SRUs) located at health facilities. These SRUs provide the infrastructure needed to safely screen every patient, visitor, and staff member with no-touch temperature checks and rapid assessments for Ebola-like symptoms each time they enter the health facility.

Moving forward, we will continue to expand prevention activities to help stop the transmission of this terrible disease, including constructing up to nine additional SRUs at health centers in Beni, Buhumbani, and Mabalako.

We thank you and the GlobalGiving community for your continued support across the response.

Screening and Referral Unit in North Kivu
Screening and Referral Unit in North Kivu
Staff in Beni (taken by Julio Martinez)
Staff in Beni (taken by Julio Martinez)

International Medical Corps is ramping up efforts to respond to the rapidly spreading Ebola outbreak in northeast DRC. On Monday, August 20, the Ministry of Health reported a total of 96 cases of hemorrhagic fever in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, including 69 confirmed as Ebola and 27 as probable, and 55 deaths. Declared only at the start of August, reports are stating that this is already the ninth-largest outbreak recorded.

Our Emergency Response Team is on the ground and has supported efforts at Beni General Hospital, a major site for Ebola screening and referrals in North Kivu. As of Monday, we had visited five health facilities to distribute urgently needed sanitation materials, and we plan to set up screening and referral units at other priority health facilities. At these units, we will provide staff with the training, supplies and other resources needed to safely screen every patient, visitor and staff member with no-touch temperature checks and rapid assessments for Ebola-like symptoms each time they enter the health site.

The disease is already striking healthcare workers, with 12 cases confirmed as of August 20, and more suspected, so we need to work fast. International Medical Corps has delivered our first 300 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE)—including coveralls, hoods, aprons, goggles, gloves and gumboots—to the Ministry of Health in Beni, and we are planning to provide additional PPE to protect the extremely vulnerable healthcare staff.

In an interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition, Dr. Joseph Fair, our Team Lead for the Ebola outbreak in northeast DRC, states, “…healthcare workers, nurses and hygienists or cleaners are always the frontline of an epidemic, especially with Ebola. So it's not uncommon that healthcare workers are the ones that do suffer the most in the beginning, at least. And if they can't protect themselves, they can't help the patients, so that's why we focus very heavily on them.” Listen to the full interview at https://www.npr.org/2018/08/19/639997929/congo-faces-another-ebola-outbreak.

It remains critical to prepare for the potential spread of this disease, as occurred in 2014 in West Africa, especially given the difficult and dangerous environment in this region of the DRC. Alongside preparedness efforts in Uganda and Rwanda, the World Health Organization has prioritized the neighboring countries of Burundi and South Sudan. International Medical Corps remains ready to support these efforts.

We thank the GlobalGiving community for your support as we scale our response to the Ebola outbreak in northeast DRC.

Our West Africa Ebola response in 2014
Our West Africa Ebola response in 2014
 

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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Davis Nordeen
Los Angeles, CA United States
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