Ensuring support to mothers, children in Ebola-affected areas in DR CongoSince yet another outbreak of the potentially fatal Ebola virus was declared in DR Congo a year ago, the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) have worked tirelessly to combat the spreading of the disease and provide psychosocial support to affected families.
Today, last year, the Government of the Democratic Republic of Congo declared an Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak in Mangina, Magangao Health zone, in Eastern Country. Only weeks later, on August 15, 2018, DRC deployed protection teams who have been involved in the response against the dangerous virus. DRC's main actions consist of individual protection assistance, including psychosocial support, complementary to actions carried out through other commissions.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first Ebola outbreak in DR Congo, however, a primary difference this time is the context of insecurity in the far North Kivu province. It is clear that the local communities are not engaged in the response although they are key in fighting the disease from spreading. The Ebola epidemic has had a significant impact on the social fabric, disrupting the coping mechanisms of communities who are facing insecurity and/or displacement.
DRC remains attentive to the general context to provide humanitarian assistance, as well as contribute to the response efforts. In November 2018, the first Ebola Nursery was opened, run in partnership with the Ministry of Health, UNICEF and Alima. Since then, other nurseries have been opened in order to welcome children from families affected by the Ebola virus.
“Thanks to UNICEF and the Ministry of Health, we realized that mothers were reluctant to be tested due to fear of stigmatization that would be directed to their children. After opening the nursery, mothers started to come in to get tested, knowing that their child would be safe”, says Martine Villeneuve, DRC’s Country Director in DR Congo.
The nurseries are managed by survivor volunteers, called “Lullabies”. The Lullabies stay with the children for 24 hours while the mothers get attended to. This also allows the Lullabies to report any sick children as soon as symptoms begin to show, increasing their chances to survive.
In addition to the nurseries, DRC - in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and UNICEF – has provided psychosocial support to affected populations by offering support to traditional funeral rites, material assistance, psychosocial services for adults and children and child care. Respecting rites and traditions, as well as supporting affected families contributes to acceptance of the EVD Response Team. Protection is an important part of the work done to fight the outbreak and contribute to saving lives.