KINSHASA – Aid organizations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) need to “reset” their response to the current Ebola outbreak and place more emphasis on understanding and addressing persistent community fears, mistrust and concerns.
Nicole Fassina, Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said:
“The Ebola response effort has undoubtedly saved lives and helped prevent the spread of this disease beyond North Kivu and Ituri. We’ve now reached more than 2,000 Ebola cases and the numbers being reported have risen dramatically. We need to reset the response, and place communities at the centre of all of our efforts.”
More than 1,300 people have died in what is now the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history. Worryingly, the number of Ebola cases has increased significantly in recent weeks to between 15-20 new cases per day.
This escalation is at least in part due to the precarious security situation in the affected area. Ebola responders do not only face resistance from communities but are also exposed to threats and attacks by armed groups. IFRC is concerned that partners limit their use of security or military support as much as possible. Increasing armed protection for Ebola responders may aggravate the tensions that already exist between communities and responders.
With the announcement last week by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee of a scale up of the Ebola response, now is the time to critically look at how we change our approach with communities.
“We welcome the commitment of partners to scale up the response to this outbreak. But we need to ensure we do this in the right way,” said Fassina.
“As a humanitarian community, we need to invest more in locally-led response approaches. This outbreak will only end when communities are engaged and leading the response efforts themselves.”