Government authorities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo say 250 schools in North Kivu and Ituri provinces will open their doors to more than 82,500 children when the new school year begins Monday.
These areas are the epicenter of the latest Ebola epidemic in DRC. The Ebola virus is extremely contagious. It can spread quickly through direct contact with blood and other bodily fluids of infected people.
UNICEF says it is scaling up operations in the region to promote prevention measures. It says school principals and teachers will receive training on Ebola prevention and protection and on how to educate children on good hygiene practices to avoid the spread of the virus.
Spokesman Christophe Boulierac said UNICEF and its partners had reached more than 2 million people with Ebola prevention messages since the start of the outbreak on August 1.
“An increasing number of communities are now aware about Ebola and … they know better how to prevent its transmission,” Boulierac said. “The active involvement of concerned communities is key to stopping the spread of the disease. So, we are working closely with them to promote handwashing and good hygiene practices.”
According to the latest World Health Organization estimates, there have been 116 cases of Ebola, including 77 deaths, in the DRC. UNICEF said children make up an unusually high proportion of people affected by the disease. It noted that 24 percent of confirmed cases were in people under age 24.
Boulierac said more than 150 psychosocial workers had been trained to help comfort children infected with the disease in treatment centers. He said they also would support children who were discharged as free of Ebola but were at risk of stigmatization upon returning to their communities. (VOA)
They call her the “young miracle.” A baby who was admitted to an Ebola treatment center just six days after birth has now recovered from the virus.
Congo’s health ministry calls the baby the youngest survivor in what is now the world’s second-deadliest Ebola outbreak.
The ministry late Thursday tweeted a photo of the infant, swaddled and with her tiny mouth open in yawn or squall, surrounded by caregivers who watched over her 24 hours a day for weeks.
The baby’s mother, who had Ebola, died in childbirth, the ministry said.
The infant was discharged Wednesday from the treatment center in Beni. “She went home in the arms of her father and her aunt,” the ministry said.
Experts have reported high numbers of children with Ebola in this outbreak, which Congo’s health ministry says has 515 cases, 467 of them confirmed, including 255 confirmed deaths.
The tiny survivor is named Benedicte. In video footage shared by UNICEF, she is shown in an isolated treatment area, cradled in the arms of health workers in protective gear or cuddled by Ebola survivors, called “nounous,” who can go without certain gear such as masks. The survivors are crucial with their reassuring presence, the health ministry said.
“This is my first child,” her father, Thomas, said. “I truly don’t want to lose her. She is my hope.” He gazed at his baby daughter through the clear protective plastic.
Children now account for more than one-third of all cases in this outbreak, UNICEF said earlier this week. One in 10 Ebola cases is in a child under 5 years old, it said, and children who contract the hemorrhagic fever are at greater risk of dying than adults.
While Ebola typically infects adults, as they are most likely to be exposed to the lethal virus, children have been known in some instances to catch the disease when they act as caregivers.
Few cases of Ebola in babies have historically been reported, but experts suspect transmission might happen via breast milk or close contact with infected parents. Ebola is typically spread by infected bodily fluids.
The World Health Organization also has noted that health centers have been identified as a source of Ebola transmission in this outbreak, with injections of medications “a notable cause.”
So far, more than 400 children have been left orphaned or unaccompanied in this outbreak as patients can spend weeks in treatment centers, UNICEF said. A kindergarten has opened next to one treatment center in Beni “to assist the youngest children whose parents are isolated” there, it said.
Health experts have said this Ebola outbreak, the 10th in Congo, is like no other as they face the threat of attack from armed groups and resistance from a wary population in a region that had never faced an Ebola outbreak before. Tracking suspected contacts of Ebola victims remains a challenge in areas controlled by rebels.