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Press Release

With no end in sight to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more humanitarian support for the Congolese people, not just Ebola programming, is needed

While many humanitarian needs existed in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) before the Ebola outbreak, the epidemic and context in the affected area have created additional hardship for the local Congolese people.

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  • More than 3,000 people have now contracted the Ebola virus in eastern DRC, and there is no end in sight to this outbreak.
  • Many people in affected communities are afraid to seek healthcare.
  • The international community must address humanitarian needs alongside the Ebola outbreak.
  • Actors involved in the Ebola response must adapt to communities and their needs, rather than expecting communities to adapt to the response.

Ebola cases continue to grow in eastern DRC as more than 3,000 people have contracted the disease, signaling the worsening of the second largest outbreak of the virus in history. Many living in eastern Congo fear seeking treatment at health facilities. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) calls for humanitarian action to accompany the Ebola response to address the increasing suffering of people living in affected areas.

Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergencies at the International Rescue Committee, said, “Eastern Congo is a long-standing humanitarian crisis. With more than 13 million people in need of humanitarian aid across the country, this is a health crisis occurring within an ongoing humanitarian crisis, and despite the huge response to the Ebola outbreak, life is becoming harder for people in affected communities. Many people are afraid to seek treatment for illnesses, worried they will be sent to an Ebola Treatment Centre where they fear they could contract the disease.  As an actor within the response, we must assume our own responsibility. It’s time for the international community, including the IRC, to work to address these access issues and programme for the humanitarian crisis facing the community, alongside the Ebola outbreak. 

One year into the response, the lack of community acceptance remains the single greatest obstacle to containing the outbreak. Building trust with the community doesn’t just mean dialogue with the affected population. It means working with the community to adapt the response and address the overall needs they are facing inside and outside of the Ebola outbreak.”

Without proper contact tracing and building the trust of impacted communities, the outbreak will continue to spread to even more new areas. A scale up of preparedness programming in areas surrounding the Ebola outbreak, including in neighbouring countries such as Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda should be readied in order to prepare health workers for possible spread of the disease. The IRC is working in clinics in neighbouring countries to train health workers to recognise symptoms and safely handle suspected cases.

The IRC has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu since its declaration in August last year working in more than 70 health facilities throughout Beni, Mabalako, Butembo and Goma on infection prevention and control (IPC). The IRC is also working in women’s and children’s protection, and integrating Ebola-related protection concerns in areas where the IRC supports primary health care services.

The IRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development, with life-saving programming in health, economic recovery, women’s and children’s protection, and livelihoods. 

To learn more about IRC’s response click here. To download images of the IRC’s Ebola response in North Kivu, click here.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.