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North Kivu, DRC: Ebola update and B-roll

Epidemic spreads into urban communities and isolated areas

The Ebola epidemic continues to spread through the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)’s North Kivu province. This is the country's tenth and most serious epidemic of Ebola since the virus was discovered in 1976. So far, 440 people have been infected with the virus, 255 of whom have died. 

The latest affected areas include the city of Butembo and a number of isolated areas that are hard to reach. For now, the number of cases in Butembo’s city centre is low, but cases are rising quickly in its eastern suburbs and outlying isolated districts.

Teams from Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) continue to strengthen their efforts to help bring the epidemic under control.

“We are very concerned by the epidemiological situation in the Butembo area,” says John Johnson, MSF project coordinator in Butembo. “We now know that this outbreak will last and that we must increase our efforts to get it under control. With the agreement of the authorities, we have made a strategic decision to roll out our activities close to the affected populations and to organize training of key people in the community so that we can reach patients and their relatives.”

MSF’s efforts to reach Ebola suspects living in isolated areas have had initial success. New cases are being reported from these areas and patients are being brought to Butembo, where MSF manages an Ebola Treatment Centre in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

MSF response

MSF teams have been responding to the Ebola epidemic in North Kivu and neighbouring Ituri province since it was declared on 1 August 2018. MSF is running Ebola Treatment Centres in the towns of Mangina, Butembo and Tchomia; an isolation centre in Bunia; and a transit centre in Beni. MSF also carries out control, prevention and awareness activities in healthcare centres and amongst affected communities.

  • MSF has increased the number of beds in the Butembo ETC to 64. MSF also carries out health promotion activities at the Butembo ETC. “We want to encourage people to come and get treated as quickly as possible. We also spread the message that recovering from Ebola is possible,” says Antoine, who runs the health promotion activities. “We ask every survivor who leaves our centre to become an ambassador and raise awareness by telling their story. Some people who are now immune to the virus can, in turn, provide valuable help, particularly looking after children isolated from their families. It is by working together that we will beat this epidemic. It concerns us all.”
  • In Mangina, where the epidemic started, no new cases have been reported for several weeks. “We should be able to end our activities in the treatment centre shortly,” says Axelle Ronsse, coordinator of MSF’s Ebola response.
  • In Beni, the number of cases per week remains stable. However, new cases are still being confirmed on a daily basis. “To fight this, we have stepped up our medical and health operations by opening a 48-bed transit centre that remains is still busy,” says Ronsse. “We also perform decontaminations in health centres where a confirmed patient has been. But our actions aren’t limited to reactive responses: we have increased our training of health professionals and raising awareness amongst communities of hygiene practices. Four months after the start of the epidemic, we remain mobilized and vigilant in the face of new developments.”
  • MSF has reinforced its activities to decontaminate health centres and vaccinate frontline health workers to help contain the epidemic. So far, 2,000 frontline workers have received the Ebola vaccine.  
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