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Help Children Impacted by the Ebola Crisis

On June 1, 2020, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared the country's eleventh Ebola outbreak. 

Located in northwestern Equateur province, the eleventh outbreak comes as the DRC declared its biggest Ebola outbreak ever over, with cases first detected in August 2018. Before it was declared over on June 25, 2020, that outbreak, in DRC's northeastern North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri province, recorded 3,470 cases and nearly 2,300 deaths.

At a time when measles, Ebola and COVID-19 each pose a unique and deadly threat to children in the DRC, your support can make a difference.

The Ebola Crisis: Facts, FAQs and How to Help

In 2014, the Ebola epidemic spread through West Africa at terrifying speed. At its height, five people were being infected every hour in Sierra Leone alone, and the number of cases was doubling every three weeks. Already fragile health systems were quickly pushed to breaking point. Shortages of protective clothing left health workers vulnerable to infection and many died. 

The outbreak was one of the most challenging contexts Save the Children's teams had ever faced. To deal with the Ebola crisis effectively, we had to help build health infrastructure and information systems from scratch – something that would normally take years.

Six years later, the country is facing its eleventh Ebola outbreak in 40 years. The 11th outbreak was declared in Equateur province on June 1, 2020. 

Save the Children remains committed to working within and alongside communities in the DRC to ensure they know how to protect themselves and feel supported through the terrible experience of having a strange and deadly disease on their doorstep.


What is Ebola?

Ebola is a rare but deadly virus.

How does Ebola spread?

People are infected when they have direct contact through broken skin, or the mouth and nose, with the blood, vomit, feces or bodily fluids of someone with Ebola.

What are the symptoms of the Ebola Virus?

The initial symptoms of the Ebola Virus are a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat. As the patient’s condition deteriorates, they experience vomiting and diarrhea and both internal and external bleeding. Those who succumb to the virus tend to die from dehydration and multiple organ failure. 

Who is at greatest risk?

As with many diseases, children are at risk. This is due to the fact that children have greater physical contact with family members and poorer hand hygiene practices. During the 2018 Ebola outbreak, 40% percent of children who contracted the disease were under the age of five.

As women are often designated caregivers of the sick, they are at a heightened risk of contracting the virus as well.

What dangers does Ebola pose to children?

Beyond the health risks of the disease itself, children are at risk of trauma and exploitation. Being kept in isolation during hospital stays or having a parent relocated for treatment can effect a child’s emotional wellbeing.

Because of the high fatality rate in Ebola virus disease, many children may lose one or both parents in an outbreak. Orphaned children are at risk of being stigmatized, isolated, or abandoned, in addition to the emotional heartache of losing a loved one. 

In North Kivu, during the 2018 Ebola outbreak, there was an increase in child kidnappings for ransom, recruitment in military operations, or child marriages. All of these things make orphaned children particularly vulnerable.

Children's access to health care can also be compromised. Already weak health systems are suffering under the strain of the outbreak, which can reverse considerable gains made in recent years to curb maternal and child deaths.

Children’s education is also at risk. It is estimated that the 2014 Ebola outbreak affected the education of more than 5 million children. Once children are out of school, many never return. As a result, they are at risk of being forced into exploitative situations, such as child labor.

Where is the current Ebola outbreak?

On June 1, 2020 the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the DRC was facing a new Ebola outbreak,  its 11th since the virus was discovered in 1976. The outbreak haa come at an already challenging time, as the Coronavirus pandemic has put addition strain on health systems and resources.  

The 11th outbreak is centered in Équateur province. On June 9, WHO announced that there is no link between the tenth outbreak and the eleventh outbreak.

Sadly, of September, more than 45 deaths and 100 confirmed cases have been linked to the outbreak.

How can I help children impacted by emergencies like the Ebola Crisis?

As our teams work around the clock to help communities prevent the spread and treat those infected with this deadly disease, your support is urgently needed. Help by donating to our Children’s Emergency Fund today.

When and where was the DRC’s largest outbreak of Ebola?

The DRC's largest Ebola outbreak and the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history began when four cases were confirmed in the eastern region of Kivu in August 2018. 

In July, 2019, the virus travelled approximately 150 miles to the city of Goma, home to 2 million vulnerable people. With the first confirmed death in Goma, the Ebola crisis had the potential to spread quickly and become even deadlier. The outbreak also made its way to Uganda with the first death confirmed in July 2019.

A total of 3,317 cases were confirmed. The outbreak claimed the lives of 2,287 people; 1,171 people survived.

How did Save the Children respond to the 2018 Ebola outbreak?

Save the Children worked with the Congolese government and the World Health Organization and its partners on the ground to stop the spread of the outbreak and to support existing health facilities. Our goal was to strengthen prevention efforts by raising awareness of Ebola and controlling the spread by helping health facilities to identify and isolate Ebola cases in addition to providing lifesaving health services.

Within days of Ebola being declared an outbreak in August 2018, Save the Children deployed its Emergency Health Unit to respond to the crisis. Together with Save the Children’s DRC country team, the Emergency Health Unit has trained more than 1,200 health workers and almost 1,000 community leaders, and reached more than 1 million people with information through our community campaigns.

Communication with communities – especially children – is essential for addressing misinformation and rumors about Ebola, helping people understand how to protect themselves from the deadly disease and ensuring people who feel unwell seek medical treatment immediately.

We also supported dozens of health facilities and built 15 Ebola triage points to both detect and prevent Ebola cases in children. Our work also included building hand-washing stations and equipping healthcare workers with training and infection prevention as well as control materials such as gumboots, gloves, masks and suits.

In some places, poor transportation infrastructure combined with the presence of armed groups has made it risky and challenging, at times, for humanitarian aid workers to reach vulnerable communities and for communities to seek care. There were more than 100 armed groups operating in eastern DRC, where constant conflict and insecurity have hampered the response. There were been almost 200 attacks on health workers.

In Uganda, Save the Children worked with local communities and district authorities to help mitigate the spread of the outbreak. More than 1,000 Ugandan health workers, volunteers, teachers, village health teams, and laboratory staff were trained to prevent and respond to cases. Save the Children also distributed prevention materials in health facilities and border crossings and installed handwashing facilities to reduce the risk of contamination.

What happened during the 2014 West Africa Ebola virus outbreak?

The world's largest Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2014. Across the three worst-affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – almost 25,000 people were infected, including more than 3,600 children.

During the outbreak, at least 16,000 children lost one or more of their parents, and many of those children were stigmatized by communities fearful of being infected. Hundreds of schools were closed leading to an educational hiatus that took children out of learning environments. More than one million children in Liberia alone were affected by the closure of schools as a result of the Ebola outbreak.

How did Save the Children respond to the 2014 Ebola outbreak?

With a long-term presence in West Africa, Save the Children was at the heart of the crisis from the start. Striking some of the weakest health systems in the world, however, this outbreak took hold in one of the most challenging contexts ever encountered.

In order to deal with the crisis effectively, we had to build health infrastructure and information systems from scratch that would normally take years to develop. We also had to be extremely agile, constantly monitoring the situation and quickly revising strategies as conditions changed.

Our staff played a vital role in bolstering community awareness and engagement in affected regions – a factor now thought to be a major reason behind the improving situation in Liberia.

In Liberia, our supporters helped us establish - Community Care Centers, which identified, triaged, tested and referred patients to our Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs). There those infected were treated in isolation wards and provided expert medical care and treatment. Community health workers and midwives were trained on infection prevention, provided health care facilities with urgently needed medical supplies, set up hand-washing stations, and supplied food and water to Ebola patients.

Tireless relief workers rehabilitated and supplied transit centers for children, helped identify foster families to care for orphans, and distributed education kits to households with quarantined children. We also supported the re-opening of hundreds of schools in Liberia following a six-month educational hiatus due to the Ebola crisis.

In Sierra Leone, the generosity of people like you helped establish an 80-bed Ebola Treatment Unit in Kerry Town with over 500 frontline medical staff. Staff at primary health clinics were given supplies and training for infection prevention and control.

Our dedicated staff led the scale-up of child registration, family tracing and reunification activities. Families in need were provided counseling, food and clothing to children who returned to their families or to an alternative caregiver. Orphaned and unaccompanied children were given financial support, as well as toys, clothes and food at interim care centers for girls and boys with no place to call home.

In Guinea, our experts trained health workers, volunteers, Ministry of Transport workers and teachers on Ebola prevention and protection messages, conducted general awareness-raising and radio programs and strengthened national and local health systems with contact tracing, surveillance and transportation support.

Thanks to tremendous support, we also provided protection kits (soap and other supplies) to health centers, schools, public services and transportation stations; and provided emotional, nutritional and social support for children whose families were affected by Ebola.

DRC, a family sits together outside their home
DRC, a family sits together outside their home
DRC, a group of kids sit together on the side of a hill
DRC, a worker in green walks in front of a health clinic
DRC, a worker in green walks in front of a health clinic

Timeline: DRC Ebola Outbreaks

July 2018
October 2018
February 2019
June 2020

The world's largest Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa is declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). Across the three worst-affected countries – Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea – almost 25,000 people become infected, including more than 3,600 children.

During the outbreak, at least 16,000 children will lose one or more of their parents, as many of those children become stigmatized by communities fearful of being infected. Hundreds of schools close leading to an educational hiatus that takes children out of learning environments. More than one million children in Liberia alone are affected by the closure of schools as a result of the outbreak.

July 2018

Save the Children deploys a team of medical workers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in June to help raise public awareness of the deadly Ebola virus—especially among children.

On August 1, the DRC declares its tenth Ebola outbreak since 1976. 

While the DRC government, with help from the World Health Organization and other partners, is placed to contain this outbreak, the situation is made worse by the mass displacement of civilians in the country’s far east as a result of years of conflict between various armed groups and the government. Because of this the total number of suspected Ebola cases and associated deaths is thought to be underreported. 

October 2018

Aid workers on the frontline of the crisis are met with mistrust and hostility in many communities in conflict-affected North Kivu—one of the regions hardest hit by the outbreak. More than 30 new cases of the disease, the worst on record since the August outbreak began, are confirmed.

The local Ministry of Health announces new measures to stem the country’s outbreak of the deadly virus in including a social media campaign, and the recruitment of local staff to trace people who have been in contact with confirmed cases.

Working alongside the Ministry of Health, Save the Children recruits and trains 230 Community Health Workers who travel door-to-door informing families on how to prevent the spread of the disease through simple steps like handwashing. 

February 2019

Insecurity and violence, combined with the fear and suspicion in some communities, make it difficult to contain the outbreak.

Save the Children continues to raise awareness about the virus to help stop it from reaching Goma, the largest town in the region. To date, we have reached almost 400,000 people in the DRC with information about how to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and how to prevent it. 

The threat of cases spreading across the border to Uganda, where refugees from the DRC continue to arrive daily, grows as Save the Children's trained health workers continue work to prevent and mitigate the spread.

June 2020

The long-running outbreak of Ebola in the country’s northeast is declared over on June 25, 2020. However, as Ebola cases emerge in the northwestern Equateur province, in August, the World Health Organization announces the DRC is facing its 11th Ebola outbreak.

The new outbreak is the second epidemic in Équateur province in less than two years. By October, more than 100 cases are delcared are declared.