The Democratic Republic of the Congo is currently in the grips of its longest and deadliest Ebola outbreak to date. It is the second-largest Ebola outbreak ever recorded and continues to grow.
IMA World Health is working in the epicenter of the Ebola zone, coordinating with local communities and organizations to stop the spread of the deadly disease in five of the most-affected health zones in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, where nearly 1.2 million people live. With Ebola now threatening the major regional city of Goma on the border with Rwanda, IMA and our partners are ramping up operations in northeastern DRC to quell the outbreak.
IMA has responded to previous Ebola outbreaks in the DRC and Liberia, but this one is different – the infection is spreading rapidly in the eastern part of the country, where trust has been eroded by a generation of civil war.
“The mistrust and fear gripping these communities after years of civil war and the prevalence of misinformation are undermining the fight against Ebola,” says Dr. William Clemmer of IMA World Health, who has worked in the DRC for more than two decades. “I have never been in a context where people throw rocks at our vaccination team, where they block roads, where they loot and pillage our health care facilities.”
The people who live in the Ebola zone are afraid. They witness the infection kill entire families quickly. They see neighbors fall ill with fever, leave to seek care, and never return. They watch medical teams in biohazard suits enter their homes to recover bodies of the deceased. They hear conspiracy theories warning them not to trust health care workers or go to Ebola treatment centers.
In the midst of this fear, health care workers have been kidnapped and killed. Health care facilities have been burned to the ground, leaving patients and staff fleeing for their lives. And Ebola continues to spread.
But IMA World Health continues the fight.
Ebola: Strengthening Community Prevention, Response and Recovery in northeastern DRC USAID/OFDA | 2018-2019
Working at the epicenter of the outbreak, IMA partners with Tearfund and the Program for Promotion of Primary Health Care, known as PPSSP, to reach over 764,000 people in and around the Ebola zone. We raise their awareness and understanding of Ebola and its symptoms as well as of the means of prevention. We train local community outreach workers to build trust in communities as they seek to spread factual information about Ebola and keep an eye out for possible cases. We support the World Health Organization in tracing contacts of people who have contracted Ebola. We provide or rehabilitate water, sanitation, hygiene and waste management facilities and equipment as well as support 50 at-risk health facilities in infection prevention and control.
In May 2018, the DRC Ministry of Health requested that staff from our Access to Primary Health Care Project, which was funded by UK Department for International Development, support Ebola data-visualization work as part of the response to an Ebola outbreak in western DRC. IMA supported the setup of the electronic database—as part of the national Health Information System established in 2014 through ASSP—to capture patient and contact data and to use the dashboard data to inform policy decisions and action plans for the response.
During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, projection models identified the DRC to be at risk for the importation of cases from the outbreak zone. Already working to strengthen health systems in the DRC, IMA World Health took swift preemptive measures by providing 200 Personal Protective Equipment kits to protect health workers and contain a potential new outbreak before it started. IMA also worked with the DRC Ministry of Health Department of Epidemic Surveillance to train hospital staff in Ebola preparedness and response. Funding was provided by individual donors and IMA member agencies including the American Baptist Churches, the United Church of Christ, and Week of Compassion.
IMA World Health supported the Christian Health Association of Liberia to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus following the March 2014 outbreak. CHAL worked in close collaboration with the Liberia Ministry of Health to train health care professionals, community health volunteers, and religious and traditional leaders on the key facts about Ebola. CHAL procured PPE for health workers and provided training on its proper use. IMA’s material and technical assistance support was made possible thanks to individual donations as well as grants from IMA member agencies including Lutheran World Relief, American Baptist Churches USA, Week of Compassion, and Church of the Brethren. Additional donors include Disaster Aid USA, Inc. and the Rotary Clubs of Baltimore, Bonds Meadow, Chevy Chase-Bethesda, Mt. Airy, Owings Mills, Pikesville, and Sykesville in Maryland, and the Rotary Club of Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Help us turn the tide in the fight against Ebola in the DRC
Stories and News
Situation report: Ebola crisis in DRC
IMA is working in the epicenter of the Ebola zone, coordinating with local communities and organizations to stop the spread of the virus in five of the most-affected health zones, where nearly 1.2 million people live.
Special Report: Stopping Ebola in its Tracks
This 2015 report details IMA staff expertise and lessons learned from working with the Government of the DRC to rapidly contain Ebola—dating back to the 1995 outbreak.
IMA in the Hot Zone
June 13, 2019: With Ebola now in Uganda and threatening Rwanda, IMA and our partners are ramping up operations in northeastern DRC to quell the outbreak despite the deteriorating security situation.
Violence, Mistrust Hamper Efforts to Combat Ebola in War Zone
CBS News, May 24, 2019: IMA’s Dr. Bill Clemmer discussed the challenges of responding to the current Ebola outbreak in the DRC.