Sunday August 25, 2019

Children Threatened By Ebola Outbreak In DRC

Ebola is highly contagious, killing between 20 and 90 percent of its victims, and the UN children’s fund is engaging communities in the fight against Ebola.

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Children attend a class session at the Wangata commune school during a vaccination campaign against the outbreak of Ebola, in Mbandaka in the Democratic Republic of Congo, May 23, 2018.

The UN children’s fund warned the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo threatens the health and well-being of children, and special care must be taken to help them survive.

Ebola is highly contagious, killing between 20 and 90 percent of its victims, and the UN children’s fund is engaging communities in the fight against Ebola. UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac said schools are crucial for minimizing the risk of transmission among children.

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There is as you mention, rightly, the risk of stigma and the risk that the child when his father, his care-giver, his mother is affected; the child is psychologically affected. Pixabay

“UNICEF is scaling up prevention efforts in schools across all three affected health zones,” he said. “This includes on-going efforts to install hand washing units in 277 schools and supporting awareness raising activities reaching more than 13,000 children in Mbandaka, Bikoro and Iboko.”

Previous outbreaks of Ebola in DRC and most recently in the horrific epidemic in West Africa have shown the high-level of trauma experienced by children at the loss of family members. Boulierac told VOA orphaned children often become social outcasts because of their association with this fatal disease.

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“There is as you mention, rightly, the risk of stigma and the risk that the child when his father, his care-giver, his mother is affected; the child is psychologically affected,” he said.

Boulierac said UNICEF is taking preventive measures, including providing trained therapists to families affected by the Ebola outbreak and helping children cope psychologically with the trauma of losing loved ones. (VOA)

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Deadly Ebola Virus Spreads to New Areas in Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo

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FILE - An ambulance waits next to a clinic to transport a suspected Ebola patient, in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Aug. 5, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The number of cases was 2,934, including 1,965 deaths, it said.

Since mid-June, the WHO has reported an average of 80 new Ebola cases every week. It said, though, that these numbers have been falling in recent weeks.

Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said two new health zones, Mwenga in South Kivu and Pinga in North Kivu, had reported cases in the past week, and that the risk of further spread remained high.

“The geographic extension of the virus has increased while the intensity of transmission has reduced in that time,” he said. “So we are winning against the virus in the intense transmission areas, but still failing to prevent the further extension of the virus into other areas before the disease is properly extinguished.”

Ebola, Virus, DRC
The World Health Organization said Friday that the deadly Ebola virus had spread to new areas in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Pixabay

Ryan noted progress in containing the disease was being made in some areas. He said some powerful tools were being put to good use in tackling the disease. He said a vaccine now is available that is protecting people from becoming infected, which wasn’t the case in previous outbreaks.  Also, two new therapeutics are successfully saving the lives of people with Ebola who seek early treatment.

Community mistrust

But Ryan said pockets of community mistrust continued to hinder efforts to stop the epidemic. He said negative social media campaigns that have spread false information were creating difficulties in gaining community confidence.

He said, for instance, that some messages have said the vaccine is used to infect people, not protect them, and treatments are used to finish victims off.  “And there are WhatsApp groups and many social media conversations that are going on at that level,” he said. “And populations, like in every country in the world, are exposed to both the positive and negative media around any intervention like this.”

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Ryan said WHO must be smarter, quicker and more effective in getting communities to hear its messages about pathways to good health. He said the way to counter bad information is not by blocking it, but by putting out good information. Then, he said, it is up to the communities to choose the messages they believe will best ensure their own future. (VOA)