By Cheruto Valentine and Gabriel-Eddie Njoroge
Insecurity is one of the major setbacks to ensuring that communities affected by the Ebola virus disease receive timely response interventions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
On April 19, World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist, Dr. Richard Mouzoko, was killed by armed men while he and his colleagues were working on the Ebola response in Butembo. Since his death, ebola response activities in the region have remained limited.
Majority of the 292 confirmed cases reported from 10th to 30th April were from the health zones of Katwa (137), Butembo (38) and Mandima (32).
According to WHO, the number of EVD cases is expected to continue rising over the next few weeks as the security situation remains the same or even worsens. This will place the response teams and available security resources at greater strain than at present.
WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, visited Butembo recently, in order to review current response activities as well as show support to response personnel operating in that region.
“Cases are increasing because of violent acts that set us back each time. We have already begun to adjust our response,” said Dr. Tedros.
One of the ways this is being done is by holding dialogues with local residents so as to aid the transfer of some of the response ownership back to the community. This is an attempt to empower communities to become more actively engaged in the Ebola response.
This has resulted in some breakthrough; several previously resistant individuals are now re-engaged in response activities and have also promised to use their influence in the community to encourage others to co-operate with Ebola response teams.
“We will continue to adjust the response, as we have done for each context in each community,” said Dr Moeti. “This worrisome rise in cases is a further call to action. In the end, it is only through the ownership by all the affected communities that the outbreak will end.”