The World Health Organization (WHO) has officially declared the year-long Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The virus began to spread through North Kivu last summer. Since then, it has infected more than 2,500 people and killed 1,700. This outbreak is now recognized as the second-largest to occur. It is also the first to strike in an area of war and conflict. Because of these conditions, it has been difficult to effectively contain the virus.
MADRE is working with our partners Female Solidarity for Integrated Peace and Development (SOFEPADI) to support women, children and families affected by the Ebola crisis in the community of Beni. We’ve provided resources to help SOFEPADI run radio programs to support access to information and prevention for Congolese women and communities. Through a rights-based public education response to the Ebola crisis, we hope to inform people of the disease, what to do to prevent it, and dispel the myths associated with it.
Historical conflict within Congo—terror from armed groups, exploitation, political instability and neglect—informs a widespread distrust in authorities. There is a common fear that responders are causing the outbreaks by injecting people with “deadly substances” under the guise of providing a cure. This fear contributes to the deaths of Ebola patients treated at centers and vaccination sites as well as the violent targeting of those centers.
Identifying this current outbreak as an emergency of “international concern” is a call-to-action for leaders around the world to mobilize. Hundreds of people, with children accounting for more than 700 reported cases, are contracting the disease. During the last international emergency for Ebola in 2014-2016, over 11,000 people died because of the sickness.
Thank you for your support, which enables us to respond in solidarity with local organizations and communities and to help safeguard people’s health.