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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
Six of eight new survivors in traditional outfits
Six of eight new survivors in traditional outfits

In December 2013, a young boy was infected with Ebola in Guinea from bats. Over two years later, the largest outbreak in history was declared over with an accumulated 28,616 confirmed cases and 11,320 deaths across ten countries, including the United States.

International Medical Corps was in West Africa from the very beginning of that outbreak, just like we have been responding from the very beginning of the ongoing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Now the second largest outbreak in history, according to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa’s September 18, 2019 report, there have already been 3,145 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola and 2,098 deaths across two countries and 37 health zones.

During the 2014-2016 West Africa Ebola Outbreak, International Medical Corps trained more than 5,000 health and technical workers in Ebola case management and infection prevention and control. We supported five Ebola Treatment Centers that cared for 2,678 patients, including 460 Ebola-positive patients. Finally, we constructed 27 screening and referral units that had conducted more than 670,000 screenings by mid-2016.

Since August 2018, in this current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, International Medical Corps has already trained more than 1,700 health and technical workers on infection prevention and control and other topics related to Ebola response. We have staffed two Ebola Treatment Centers that have cared for 1,407 patients, including more than 260 confirmed cases, and our teams have constructed 48 screening and referral units that have conducted more than 1 million screenings. While it is difficult to compare responses, one of the differences is reduced media attention on the current outbreak. Public interest is often tied directly to funding availability, impacting nonprofit organizations, such as International Medical Corps.

What’s Going on This Time?

Treatments. Though cases continue to rise, preliminary data from the clinical trial in which our team in DRC is participating are very positive and signal potential game-changing Ebola treatments that will be used in this and future outbreaks. Two of the experimental Ebola treatments that were trialed appear to greatly increase survival rates. These two therapies will now be offered to all patients in the DRC.

International Medical Corps was one of three humanitarian non-governmental organizations that were part of this trial. Dr. Adam Levine, International Medical Corps’ Director of the Ebola Research Project, said, “This Ebola therapeutics trial is the largest ever conducted and the first to be run in the middle of a conflict zone. International Medical Corps is proud to be one of the few organizations participating in this groundbreaking trial, which will not only help us find better treatments for this deadly disease but also likely alter the humanitarian community’s approach to research for decades to come.”

Psychosocial Support. International Medical Corps is collaborating with the Ministry of Health to provide psychosocial support to patients and their families at our Mangina treatment center, and to survivors as they rejoin their communities.

Community Engagement. International Medical Corps is engaging the community in Ebola surveillance through networks of Community Health Workers. Because of the widespread fear and misinformation related to Ebola, these healthcare workers are conducting household visits, hosting educational talks and leading mass sensitization sessions to spread awareness of the realities of the disease. Trained to recognize Ebola signs and symptoms, they play a key role in discovering new cases and tracing contacts. International Medical Corps’ community engagement activities have reached nearly 64,000 people.

Vaccinations. Healthcare professionals are using what is called a “vaccination ring,” or vaccinating everyone who has come in contact with an infected person, to prevent the spread of the disease. However, misinformation and fear of the government have often prevented healthcare professionals from being completely effective.

Thanks to the GlobalGiving community and other donors, for continually enabling access to cutting-edge services for Ebola patients and survivors and their family members.

One of five cured Ebola patients from June 2019
One of five cured Ebola patients from June 2019
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
 

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Organization Information

International Medical Corps

Location: Los Angeles, CA - USA
Website:
Project Leader:
Kelli Maddock
Los Angeles, CA United States
$2,716 raised of $15,000 goal
 
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