Goma/Nairobi/Paris – Hopes to stop the one-year Ebola virus from spreading beyond the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) seems to be fading as Rwanda closes its borders as precautionary measures.
“It’s a hopeless situation. God should help us. Goma mustn’t become another graveyard for Ebola victims. Our lives are in the mess because apart from fearing Ebola, we are now unable to go to Rwanda to do business,” 38-year-old Sophie Amani, a resident of Goma, told Daily Afrika last night.
After the death of two Ebola patients in July, a third case of Ebola has been declared in this city of one million people that stands side by side with Gisenyi (Rwanda).
“The government of Rwanda does not want any Congolese to go in, whereas many people depend on the cross-border trade to survive,” Amani added.
As the year drags on since the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the tenth outbreak on 1 August 2018 in this vast, mineral resources-rich Central African nation, response teams continue to work tirelessly amid community mistrust, attacks on treatment centres and health workers.
The response in North Kivu and Ituri has been complicated by political misgivings and more than two decades of armed conflict that has claimed millions of lives and forced more than five million people to leave their homes and seek refuge in peaceful areas, where they have been living without basic services such as food, healthcare and education.
So far, the disease has killed 1 803 people, according to the health ministry.
Dr Emanuele Capobianco, director of health and care at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said there was now a collective recognition that the virus could only be stopped by engaging communities and placing them at the centre of the response in its tracks.
“Communities continue to be suspicious of the Ebola response because they feel that it is not addressing their broader needs. Moving forward in this response, we need to ensure that we are adequately responding to the priorities and concerns of these communities.
“This means expanding the response to include broader health and humanitarian needs.”
Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), whose Ebola treatment centres were destroyed in Butembo said there was a lot more that must be done to engage constructively with the community to improve the response.
“The intervention must show more sensitivity for people’s concerns, fears and customs in caring for the sick and respecting the dead. We must create conditions conducive to mutual trust and positive collaboration. This is paramount if we are to gain control of the epidemic,” MSF explained.