Democratic Republic of Congo
Supporting people to stay safe from Ebola and recover from sexual violence
Ebola breaks out in a conflict zone
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is now facing its tenth Ebola outbreak. The first cases were reported in August 2018 in North Kivu province, home to eight million people.
So far, more than 1,350 people have died of Ebola and this is increasing every day. There have been over 2,000 cases in this outbreak already.
The situation in North Kivu and Ituri provinces is complicated by decades of violent conflict that has forced over a million people to flee their homes. Some still live in the province and others have moved to neighbouring countries.
Security issues can also make it harder to reach the people most in need, with some areas completely closed to humanitarian aid workers. There are also fears that Ebola could spread to neighbouring countries, such as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan, when people cross borders to trade.
Ebola is spread through an infected person’s body fluids such as blood, or things like blankets and clothes contaminated with these fluids. There is no cure for Ebola, but early treatment for specific symptoms, as well as using oral rehydration therapy and IV fluids, can improve chances of survival. A recently developed vaccine is being given to people in North Kivu to help prevent Ebola’s spread.
Red Cross helps to fight Ebola
The Red Cross worked hard to help keep people safe during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014 to 2015. We’re now working with the World Health Organization and the ministry of health to help stop the spread of Ebola in DRC.
In eastern DRC, people touch their loved one’s bodies before burying them, which is part of their traditional burial practices. When a person has died of Ebola, this can spread the disease to their family and friends.
To tackle this problem, 800 Red Cross volunteers who live in the affected communities are helping their neighbours by sharing important. This includes how burials need to be done differently when people die of Ebola and what to do if someone might be infected with it.
So far, they have reached more than 904,800 people.
The Red Cross has also trained specialist burial teams in ten remote communities to safely bury people who have died of Ebola. They and burial teams in other areas have carried out over 2,474 safe and dignified burials across North Kivu and Ituri provinces. They also make sure that people’s homes and medical equipment are disinfected.
Our teams have set up hand-washing points at health centres and decontamination bases in three areas where the Red Cross supports safe burials. They help to destroy contaminated material, disinfect vehicles and store equipment.
The DRC Red Cross has 150,000 volunteers to call on and the Red Cross Movement will continue to work there as long as we can make a difference.
Cash grants help survivors of sexual violence
The Democratic Republic of Congo has faced violent conflict for decades and women are regularly attacked by members of armed groups. Women then have to deal with not only the physical and emotional violence but also terrible stigma around sexual assault in their community.
Women are frequently disowned by their husbands, families and villages. This can force them to leave their homes, making it difficult to earn a living for themselves and their children.
In 2016, the Red Cross began supporting 500 survivors of sexual violence in rural areas of the DRC with cash grants. The women also received training in budgeting and business skills.
Using the money as they thought best, the women could take care of their urgent needs for food, clothes and shelter. They then invested the grants in farming or small businesses depending on what would work best for them.
Before the project began, some of the women were begging or doing occasional work when they could get it. Now, many of them earn a living from farming, breeding livestock, work as a seamstress or small businesses.
As a result of careful use of the grants, women’s incomes have risen from an average of $5 to $62 per month. This has helped every single woman keep her children in school. Some women have also been able to pay for family health care or buy houses, household goods, farm animals or land.
We are planning to reach women in more areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo and in nearby countries in 2019.