Conflict and insecurity are hampering Ebola responders’ work, raising fear that the outbreak may reach a tipping point that sees the virus to spread to more provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) and neighbouring countries, warns the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement.
In response to this, as well as a recent upsurge of Ebola cases in DR Congo, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is scaling-up community-level preparedness in four countries.
Jamie LeSueur, IFRC’s head of Ebola response operation in DR Congo said: “Insecurity in North Kivu is, without doubt, obstructing the Ebola response, including Red Cross access to affected communities. This is contributing to the upsurge of new transmissions of Ebola cases in Beni. We are concerned that this will contribute to an accelerated spread of the disease, which poses increased risk to neighbouring provinces in DR Congo and neighbouring countries.”
IFRC has released more than 500,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to step up Red Cross Ebola preparedness operations in Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda. IFRC is working with the Red Cross, government authorities and international partners in these countries to ensure that plans are in place, and volunteers are activated and trained to engage with affected communities. In South Sudan, the International Committee of the Red Cross is also supporting primary health care facilities.
Despite the spike in violence in DR Congo’s North Kivu province in recent weeks, Red Cross access to affected communities remains a priority. Additional safeguards have been put in place to protect Red Cross volunteers so that they can continue to engage with the communities and conduct safe and dignified burials.
Grégoire Mateso Mbuta, the President of the Red Cross of the DR Congo said: “Red Cross volunteers are needed most when tensions and insecurity are at their highest to help communities overcome their fears in the face of this disease. Red Cross volunteers are stepping up efforts to collaborate with communities to improve messages that take into account cultural norms.”
More than 180 Red Cross volunteers have reached nearly 160,000 people in communities across North Kivu Province to provide lifesaving information and dispel false rumours about Ebola. Specialist Red Cross teams have conducted over 235 safe and dignified burials which are crucial to reducing the spread of the disease.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).