29 May 2019

The British Red Cross launches Ebola appeal

British Red Cross launches appeal in response to the alarming spread of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo

  • The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is now facing the worst Ebola outbreak in the country's recent history
  • Funds urgently needed to contain disease and prevent spread to border countries
  • British Red Cross playing vital role in rumour tracking to support response

British Red Cross has launched an emergency fundraising appeal in response to the growing Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). 

The latest outbreak began in North Kivu province on 01 August. Around 1,200 people have died, and close to 2,000 cases have been reported. This is now the worst outbreak of Ebola that the DRC has experienced in recent history, and the second deadliest outbreak in modern history.  

Ebola is spread through contact with blood or other bodily fluids. Some local belief systems are hampering efforts to contain the outbreak. Rumours and distrust are rife, from conspiracy theories about the spread of the disease to claims it doesn’t exist at all or is a money-making scam. 

There is anger and even hostility towards those trying to prevent the spread and dispose of bodies safely. With health workers coming under attack, British Red Cross staff are playing a vital role in tracking Ebola rumours and misinformation. Weekly data is analysed and sent to local volunteers, which is then used to adapt the response and increase community acceptance. 

David Foster, British Red Cross Global Response Manager said:

“This outbreak is unfolding in a region affected by a two-decades-long conflict, where humanitarian needs were already great. Now Ebola is spreading in a country where health facilities are already under strain, and violence is hindering access to some areas. 

“Local Red Cross volunteers are at the forefront of the response, working with communities to help contain this outbreak. They have done incredible, brave work – but without funding, the response could stall, and the risk of further spread is a terrifying reality. Ebola does not respect boundaries. If it reaches urban areas and border countries, containment will be incredibly challenging.”

The British Red Cross appeal will support the urgent containment of the disease, including safe and dignified burials, Ebola prevention and control, and work with communities. 

Foster continued: 

“Decontamination of homes and safe burials are essential, but aren’t possible when communities don’t trust volunteers. By working with people to understand their fears, the Red Cross been able increase acceptance. This can be anything from involving families in the burials process, or designing clear body bags so people can see their loved ones. These changes make a huge difference. Previously 80% of cases were reported from Ebola Treatment Centres, and only 20% from the communities. That’s worrying for contamination. Now that figure has reversed – 80% of cases are reported by communities. This is a huge step. But this progress could be undone by a lack of funding. We cannot stop now.”

Please note: the Ebola appeal has now closed. You can still support our vital work through the International Relief Fund.


Notes to editors

British Red Cross helps people in crisis, whoever and wherever they are. We are part of a global voluntary network, responding to conflicts, natural disasters and individual emergencies.

We enable vulnerable people in the UK and abroad to prepare for and withstand emergencies in their own communities. And when the crisis is over, we help them to recover and move on with their lives.

Disaster Relief Alliance
Thanks to investment from the Disaster Relief Alliance, we are able to respond immediately to the emergency. The Disaster Relief Alliance is an initiative from the British Red Cross, which brings together five companies, Tesco, Aviva, Delta Air Lines, John Lewis Partnership and Kingfisher, who are united in their commitment to providing support to mitigate and respond to crises. Together we are investing in ground-breaking global emergency response strategies to ensure that everyone receives the help they need in a crisis; today, tomorrow and in the future.