DR Congo, 25 June 2020 – As the World Health Organisation (WHO) declares the end of the 10th outbreak of Ebola, children in Beni have written passionate letters to the children of Equateur province where an 11th outbreak is building up.
“Ebola has been a bitter experience. It has affected me on all aspects personally. Ebola has even taken my best friend who also was my English teacher,” recalls Jason, a 16-year old boy, from Beni in a letter addressed to the children of the Equateur Province affected by the ongoing 11th Ebola Virus outbreak.
“None of my classmates wanted to speak me when I presented with symptoms similar to Ebola fevers, after I was vaccinated.”, Martine, a 16-year girl, also from Beni, adds her letter to the children of the Equateur Province.
“We, the children of North Kivu Province in the DRC, are so relieved that Ebola is ended in our area. But we are worried for the children in Equateur Province where the number of cases is rising in the new outbreak. Ebola, COVID-19, and measles are dreadful. They cause a lot of pain and fear, but they can be stopped if people follow advice from community workers,” the group of children from Beni write.
Today’s announcement by the WHO comes at a time when the DRC is facing the pressure of responding to the 11th Ebola outbreak as well as COVID-19. The 10th Ebola outbreak that affected Ituri and North Kivu Provinces infected more children than previous outbreaks, and thousands continue to suffer separation, life as orphans, fear, and death from easy-to-treat diseases that are usually deprioritised in such times.
World Vision warns that whilst the 10th Ebola outbreak has ended, the terrible impact on children, survivors and their communities continues. Children who are separated, isolated, orphaned, and fearful because of Ebola now have to worry about a new threat. Thirty per cent of the Ebola cases in the DRC were children; 937 children were infected, 7,669 separated, and 2,582 orphaned.
“This announcement is a milestone. One crisis down is such a relief in a country where humanitarian and health services capacities are already stretched. The money for non COVID-19 programming is dwindling, further exposing children and families to experience aftershocks of the two killer diseases. The end of the 10th Ebola outbreak paves the way to address the long-term effects of disease for children and families in Ituri and North Kivu, including fear, increased vulnerability to abuse, and inequality,” says World Vision's DRC National Director, Anne-Marie Connor.
World Vision’s Ebola Response Manager, Johnson Lafortune notes that: “In times of conflict, almost half of those forced to flee are children. Rumours, misinformation, and conflict - which led to mass people movements - hampered the response; which made contact tracing, surveillance, vaccination, treatment, and general humanitarian interventions more difficult.”
Whilst the 10th Ebola outbreak recorded 3,473 cases, and 2,280 deaths in two years, the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across 12 provinces has infected 5,925 people in three months. And now, the 11th Ebola outbreak in Equator Province.
“We know that involving communities in preventing infections, speed of diagnosis, surveillance of contacts and providing psychosocial support, food assistance, water and sanitation, are critical to combat a disease outbreak,” Anne-Marie explains.
From the concluded response World Vision confirmed the importance of working through influential community leaders, especially faith leaders, as change agents in the fight against epidemics and pandemics such as COVID-19. The organisation has deployed faith leaders to educate communities about how the novel coronavirus is spread and encouraging them to follow simple life-saving practices like staying home, hand-washing, and social distancing.
“While it will likely be muted, this milestone that ends two years of a complex response offers hope that even COVID-19 can be stopped. It also releases resources to address other crises in a country where 25.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance,” Anne-Marie concludes.
"The revised DRC Humanitarian Response Plan, released this week, increased the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance to 25.6 million people, up by 64% from the previous target of 15.6 million. This is an indication of the huge impact of COVID-19 and its secondary effects, which requires resource mobilisation amidst a global fundraising challenge. This is impacting already weakened health systems and social protection services, thereby increasing risk for the most at risk children and their families and requiring longer term attention” Lafortune concludes.
Learn more about and/or support World Vision’s global work to limit the spread of COVID-19 and support the children impacted by it on our COVID-19 Emergency Response Page.
For further information or to organise an interview please contact Geoffrey Kalebbo Denye, Communications Specialist, World Vision DRC: firstname.lastname@example.org
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organisation dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities to reach their full potential by tackling the root causes of poverty and injustice. World Vision serves all people, regardless of religion, race, ethnicity, or gender. For more information, please visit www.wvi.org or follow us on Twitter @WorldVision.