Protecting children and engaging communities key to ending epidemic of deadly disease
STATEMENT attributable to Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF Representative in the Democratic Republic of Congo
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DUBLIN/KINSHASA 30 August 2019 – “Almost 600 children have lost their lives to the Ebola outbreak in the north-east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), out of almost 850 who have caught the deadly virus since the epidemic started in August 2018. The news that the total number of deaths has passed 2,000, out of more than 3,000 cases, should act as a rallying cry to step up efforts to defeat this terrible disease and end the outbreak.
“As the numbers continue to grow, it is vital to remember that each case is somebody’s child, a son or daughter; a mother, father, brother or sister. Each of these deaths leaves a family not only in mourning but also scared and worried about their own exposure to the disease.
“That is why supporting, engaging and raising awareness in affected communities is key to ending this outbreak. The recent breakthrough in finding a successful treatment for this disease, and the continued effectiveness of vaccination to prevent transmission and infection, mean we now have the means to both prevent and treat Ebola. However, these breakthroughs mean little if individuals do not seek treatment. Ensuring the local population is informed, engaged and invested in the response offers the best chance of defeating the disease.
Preventing infection among children must be central to the continued response. We know that more children, proportionately, are being affected than in any previous Ebola outbreak, and Ebola ravages children in ways that are very different from adults. What we do to treat and care for children must take into account their unique needs – physical, psychological and social. As such, UNICEF is working with partners, to meet children’s immediate and longer-term needs, accompanying them and their families every step of the way.
UNICEF’s Marixie Mercado has recently returned from the affected provinces.
Mr Beigbeder renewed his office’s call for crisis funding: “The reality is that we need far more international support now. Ebola outbreaks need an exceptional level of investment compared to other disease outbreaks because they require 100 per cent of cases to be treated, and 100 per cent of contacts to be traced and managed. UNICEF requires US$126 million to meet the needs of children and communities, immediately and over the medium-term. Currently, UNICEF has only funded 31 per cent of the appeal.”
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Donate to UNICEF’s Ebola appeal here.
UNICEF Ireland Ambassador Donncha O’Callaghan recently visited Ebola-hit communities in North Kivu, DRC.
UNICEF works with partners to support the goal of defeating Ebola and achieving zero cases.
• Risk communication and community engagement to inform, protect and engage communities. We work with a broad swathe of influential community and religious leaders, Ebola survivors, psychosocial workers, and mass media, to bring crucial knowledge on symptoms, prevention and treatment, to the households and communities most at-risk. We are learning from continuous research and analysis of community feedback to better understand local needs, fears and concerns, and to adapt the response, to one that is socially and culturally acceptable. We have made changes to the burials process; we are conducting decontamination at night; and we are responding with a lighter footprint. We will keep listening and learning.
• Infection prevention and control to help prevent further spread of the disease. We have installed handwashing units in over 2,500 health facilities, 2,300 schools and over 7,000 critical transit sites. We distribute supplies, including thermometers and chlorine to treat water. And we’ve enabled over 2.1 million people to gain access to safe water.
• Psychosocial support to assist families, particularly children affected by the disease. UNICEF and its partners have trained more than 918 psychosocial workers to assist children and families directly affected by the disease, and people who are contacts of those who have contracted the disease. We set up childcare centres next to the Ebola treatment centres in Beni and Butembo, where Ebola-survivors look after young children who have been separated from their parents due to Ebola treatment or orphaned.
• Eight nutritionists have been deployed to provide specialised care in Ebola treatment centres. This is the first time an Ebola response has included this kind of care. There is growing recognition amongst responders that nutrition plays a vital role in the overall health of patients.
• We work in over 6,509 schools across the affected and at-risk areas to build a protective environment for children. This includes distributing health and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies, including handwashing units and laser thermometers. Some 32,250 teachers and principals, and 928,500 students have received sensitisation or training on Ebola.
UNICEF works in the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work, visit our website.
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