This post was originally published on (27.04.17) and updated on (16.07.19)
In order to succeed in the fight against Ebola, it’s important to extinguish any misconceptions around the disease and educate local communities to build a healthy support and trust system. Since August 2019, 1,359 people have died as a result of contracting Ebola, and 2,087 people have contracted the virus; but, while Ebola is in its second-largest recorded crisis, many citizens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo believe that the disease doesn’t actually exist.
On 11 June 2019, Uganda declared an Ebola virus disease outbreak, with three confirmed cases, all of whom had travelled to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since the outbreak, people who had contact with confirmed cases are being monitored, and 1507 high-risk individuals have been vaccinated, 682 of them being frontline health workers. According to the latest summary report, the 3 confirmed cases have died and Kasese remains at high risk for Ebola because of its proximity to the DRC.
Because of violence and insecurity due to misconceptions about the virus, response has been critically slowed. According to E.U. figures, between January and May this year, there have been 130 attacks on healthcare facilities, during which dozens of medics and civilians were injured.
Health workers and community leaders are vital in the fight to contain Ebola. Our role at CTG is all about finding and mobilising the people needed to tackle a crisis, and in 2014, during the first Ebola outbreak, we sourced and mobilized 25 doctors and nurses on the ground in Liberia from all over the world in just two weeks.
One staff member shares memories of the Ebola crisis and how important it is to be informed.
In Liberia we visited many dangerous locations to understand the scale of the challenge. We covered the Tubmanberg region and met the local medics tackling the crisis before US Engineers constructed a new Ebola treatment unit. We got a full team of doctors and nurses there in under two weeks to support and advise on this operation. It was constructed in less than four weeks – an amazing achievement.
Our team recruited the doctors and sent them off to Ghana, where we assembled the team under a dedicated CTG operations manager. We headed to Liberia and took over an entire hotel for what seemed like months.
Facing the fear of Ebola
Working in that environment was very challenging and many people were terrified of contracting Ebola. The outbreak had a big impact on everyone in Liberia. People had to change the way they greeted each other as you couldn’t kiss or touch hands. Everyone had to do repeated checks on themselves and constantly wash their hands with chlorine which meant your hands were very dry and your skin was peeling off.
One person got very upset because someone had touched their arm. There was a lot of fear; people were in a constant state of worry.
Our staff weren’t immune to health scares – thankfully none contracted the disease but there were a few moments of panic when a test came back over the safe limit. What a relief when the second result came back clear.
This was the reality of the environment we all had to work in. The constant checks and constant fear of this terrible disease was something everybody had to deal with. However, CTG was there – straight in at the front as always.
Education is key to future Ebola fight
In some places, when the Ebola crisis ended, the majority of aid workers left and there has been no continuation of the training they provided to the people left behind or any further education for the people in these affected countries.
A lot of money was spent on training and we shouldn’t let those skills go to waste. We have to utilise the local people that were employed and trained. They need to be encouraged to continue to use their skills and provide education, rather than leave them unemployed.
CTG is still involved in these countries and continues to work to provide food, supplies and support. All agencies should make sure the skills and knowledge they provide is maintained in the countries they support.
Ebola is still a threat and that’s because there is not enough education. By investing in those we’ve trained, we can change that. Education is the answer.
*For the purpose of security, this blogger remains anonymous.