As the daily number of reported Ebola cases continues to be in single digits, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) reaffirms that we must double down on our efforts to reach zero cases. Any let up in the response could risk a flare up of cases, and in turn prolong the outbreak.
Dalia al-Awqati, Ebola Response Director in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the IRC said: "Whilst we have seen the number of reported cases drop in the past weeks, cases continue to arise, and the challenges we face in controlling the spread are undiminished. We are walking on a tightrope. We know that it does not take much for cases in a new area to escalate quickly, as we have seen following previous lulls in cases in this outbreak. It only takes one infected person to travel to a new area to start a new transmission chain. Given the 21 day incubation period, the chances of this are relatively high."
Many of the areas in which the disease is now present represent a significant challenge to the response due to their remoteness and poor infrastructure, meaning curbing transmission continues to require significant effort. Increasingly we are working with small communities with pre-existing challenges such as lack of access to water and poor access to basic services.
For example, to travel the 36km [22 miles] to Mayuwano from the small town of Mambasa in southwest Ituri province takes two hours on a good day. On a bad day the road is simply impassable. Once in Mayuwano, there is little infrastructure meaning that all materials for triages need to be brought along the increasingly damaged road, which the community also relies on. This example also brings to light the challenges that many people in North Kivu and southwest Ituiri face everyday, with or without an Ebola outbreak.
The risk of spread from the DRC to neighboring countries remains high. This means maintaining high levels of preparedness in these countries until the very end of the outbreak in DRC. This includes both monitoring for and responding to Ebola cases, as well as working to ensure that existing humanitarian programming is resilient to a potential outbreak.
The IRC has been responding to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri since its declaration in August last year working in more than 90 health facilities in Beni, Mabalako, Butembo, Goma and in southwest Ituri, leading on infection prevention and control (IPC). The IRC is also working in women's and children's protection and community engagement, and integrating Ebola-related protection concerns in areas where the IRC supports primary health care services.The IRC has a long-standing presence in this area of North Kivu and continues to equally address pre-existing and persistent health and protection needs related to displacement and insecurity in this area now impacted by Ebola.
The IRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development, with life-saving programming in health, economic recovery, women's and children's protection, and livelihoods.