DRC: WHO tries to curb Ebola advance in critical areas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has prepared a new strategy to contain the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since the outbreak was declared in August 2018, endemic response teams have struggled to control the epidemic due to attacks on health facilities in the east of the country. Armed conflict and disinformation in already traumatized communities are among the biggest problems.

In 2019, the WHO recorded about 390 attacks. The attacks killed 11 and injured 83 health workers. Attacks on health facilities severely restrict health staff operations, allowing the Ebola contagion to increase.

Hamadou Boiro
Hamadou Boiro

To try to reverse this situation, a team of social anthropologists was sent to the most critical areas to understand the concerns of the population and to pave the way for other professionals to get involved in the community. This team is made up mainly of Congolese citizens who know the local culture and customs and speak the local language.

“Our main advantage is to understand and sympathize with the culture. In many cases, we visit leaders and their communities first to facilitate engagement and then explain their concerns to our colleagues, ”says Hamadou Boiro, leader of the WHO team of social anthropologists. According to him, traditional and religious leaders are an important part of the engagement process.

+ The current Ebola outbreak is the tenth in the country and the second worst in the world.

A community in eastern DRC

Among the issues addressed by anthropologists and local leaders are political and religious issues. “Some think that Ebola was invented so that foreigners could make money from it. Some attribute the disease to witchcraft and others suspect that the outbreak was an excuse to postpone the 2018 presidential election that was canceled in Butembo, Beni and Yumbi. ”

“If the teams had already started with the support of traditional leaders, their experience with the community would have been much more positive,” said Mwami Saidi Katwa, one of the leaders of Kalonge, South Kivu, who was visited by the WHO team of anthropologists a few days ago.

Um outro fator que contribuiu para garantir o acesso dos profissionais de saúde é a falta de confiança da população. Cerca de 36% dos moradores das regiões mais atingidas não confiam nos agentes de saúde, um terço negou a existência do ebola e outros 30% não sabiam da doença. Mais de 80% dos entrevistados ouviram rumores sobre os centros de tratamento do Ebola, e muitas pessoas disseram que estavam com medo de morrer lá. Os dados são de uma pesquisa feita pela própria OMS.