More than 1,600 people have died as a result of the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo since last August. This week, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a global health emergency after a patient death was recorded in Goma, a city of nearly 2 million, which is a major transport hub in the region.
Confirmation of the disease’s presence in Goma — situated half of a mile from the border of Rwanda — has long been a concern of health authorities. Precautions have been underway, and health workers have been able to vaccinate all known contacts of the Ebola victim, while health facilities are working to protect staff and patients.
To support that effort, Direct Relief has shipped requested medical aid to health facilities in the DRC. Ongoing medical support has also been sent to the neighboring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan, since the beginning of the outbreak.
This week, a shipment of personal protective gear, including gloves, protective suits and other supplies to protect health workers from the disease, is bound for the Ministry of Health. The supplies were donated by 3M. The shipment is being coordinated with Jericho Road, which operates a health center in Goma.
Upon arrival, the equipment will be dispersed to health facilities in Beni and other cities in the north, where the outbreak is still centered. A portion of the medical aid will also be pre-positioned with facilities in Goma for use, should new cases be reported in the city.
Protecting Local Health Workers
The current outbreak, with more than 2,500 cases recorded, is the world’s second biggest, following the West Africa Ebola outbreak that claimed 11,310 lives between 2014-2016. Civil conflict and attacks on local health workers have compounded the challenge of containing the current outbreak. Ensuring that health workers have proper gear to protect against the disease is crucial.
In August of 2018, just following the announcement of the outbreak, Direct Relief sent an air freight shipment of critical protective equipment to Hope Wellness Clinic and the Ministry of Health in North Kivu, to be transported to Beni. The shipment included protective coveralls, latex gloves, N-95 masks, as well as medicines, and were specifically requested to aid the healthcare response efforts in preventing further spread of the disease.
As the outbreak worsened and concerns of potential spread to Goma were heightened, Direct Relief sent a second shipment of personal protective equipment to Hope Wellness Clinic in January in an effort to further support Ebola preparedness measures being rolled out at the facility.
Following the confirmation of first Ebola case in Goma this week, the country’s Ministry of Health has reached out for additional support from Direct Relief.
In addition to supporting preparedness and response efforts in the DRC, Direct Relief has been in close contact with partners in the bordering countries of South Sudan, Uganda, and Rwanda, where national task forces have been established and preparedness efforts have been well underway. Direct Relief has received requests from healthcare facilities and organizations in both South Sudan and Uganda for additional personal protective equipment to bolster their ability to respond.