Fear and suspicion threatens the fight against Ebola, a deadly disease impacting children and families in the Democratic Republic of Congo as well as Uganda. Save the Children is 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.
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The Ebola Crisis: Facts, FAQs, and How to Help
On July 17, the World Health Organization declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a public health emergency of international concern after an Ebola patient in eastern DRC's largest city, Goma, died. On August 16, the year-long outbreak spread to a third province, with a young mother dying from the disease, leaving a baby behind who has also been confirmed positive for Ebola. There is a grave concern that the outbreak could continue to spread across an already vulnerable population of families and children.
With more than 2,300 confirmed Ebola cases across eastern DRC, Save the Children continues to race to fight against the deadly outbreak.
What is Ebola?
How does Ebola spread?
What are the symptoms of the Ebola Virus?
Where is the current Ebola outbreak?
Who is at greatest risk?
What dangers does Ebola pose to children?
How is Save the Children responding?
How can I help?
What happened during the 2014 West Africa Ebola virus outbreak?
How did Save the Children respond to the 2014 Ebola outbreak?
Ebola is a rare but deadly virus.
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.
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.
The DRC is now battling the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history.
Since the first reported outbreak in August 2018, more than 2,300 cases have been reported in the rural and secluded eastern part of the country – including hundreds of children. Tragically, the deadly disease has already claimed the lives of at least 1,600 people.
Fears continue to grow as the virus has now 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 has the potential to spread quickly and become even deadlier.
Ebola has also made its way to Uganda and is on the rise as well with the first death confirmed in July 2019.
As with many diseases, children are the most at risk. This is due to the fact that children have greater physical contact with family members and poorer hand hygiene practices.
One out of every three people currently diagnosed with Ebola is a child. 40% percent of children who have contracted the disease are under the age of five.
Women make up more than half of Ebola cases. As women are often designated caregivers of the sick, they are at a heightened risk of contracting the virus.
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 have already lost one or both parents in the outbreak. More than 400 children are estimated to have already lost at least one parent in North Kivu. 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, in recent months, there has also been 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.
Save the Children is racing to fight against the deadly outbreak in the hardest-hit Beni region. Save the Children is working 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 is 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 are also supporting dozens of health facilities and have built 15 Ebola triage points to both detect and prevent Ebola cases in children. Our work also includes 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 are more than 100 armed groups operating in eastern DRC, where constant conflict and insecurity have hampered the response. There have been almost 200 attacks on health workers.
In Uganda, Save the Children has been working 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 have been trained to prevent and respond to cases so far. Save the Children has also distributed prevention materials in health facilities and border crossings and installed handwashing facilities to reduce the risk of contamination.
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.
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.
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.
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