A LARGE Salvation Army health project is underway in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), aiming to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus among the population of Goma, in the far east of the country. The current outbreak, which started in August 2018, is the largest-ever Ebola outbreak in DRC with more than 900 cases and almost 600 deaths attributed to the virus in North Kivu and Ituri provinces alone. There is a high risk of further geographical spread of the outbreak to Goma, a short distance away from areas of confirmed cases. The Salvation Army’s project aims to minimise the spread of the virus by promoting rigorous handwashing, building awareness and knowledge of the condition, and fighting against the stigma associated with the virus.
The Ebola virus causes a severe and often fatal fever accompanied by internal and external bleeding. It is spread from person to person through body fluids, so adhering to good hygiene practices is one of the most important ways of avoiding infection.
To this end, The Salvation Army is working with 10 health centres, 320 schools and 120 faith-based organisations, including mosques and churches of various denominations in the North Kivu region. The Salvation Army project team has completed two or five-day Train the Trainer courses for all the health centre leaders, school leaders and religious leaders. The newly-trained leaders are then tasked with training a further 10 leaders each.
As well as the extensive Ebola prevention training programme, The Salvation Army has provided all the churches and schools identified with hygienic handwashing facilities. This includes a large capacity water tank, with a tap (faucet), washbasin and an initial supply of 10 bottles of liquid soap.
In liaison with the country’s Ministry of Public Health department, the roll-out will also see The Salvation Army providing 10 clinics with similar equipment – with the liquid soap replaced by a professional chlorine-based antibacterial agent. The clinics will also be provided with protective clothing, including boots, safety goggles, face masks, gloves and full-body Ebola suits in quantities sufficient for every member of staff. Each clinic will also be equipped with a triage centre at its entrance where patients, staff and visitors will be assessed and suspected cases contained to prevent the potential spread.
Technology is also being used to good effect, with the online messaging platform WhatsApp being utilised to provide a continuing stream of verified and updated information to the leaders who have undergone the hygiene training. The WhatsApp facility will also enable community leaders to ask questions and receive accurate advice on the best approaches to hygiene and disease prevention.
Speaking from Goma, Damaris Frick, The Salvation Army’s Deputy Coordinator of International Emergency Services, said: ‘The Salvation Army in Goma is small but their contribution and work is significant. To date there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Goma. Our hope is that together with the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and many other stakeholders our efforts will prevent this deadly virus spreading further.’
The project costs are in the region of US$ 180,000. Donors wishing to support The Salvation Army’s Africa Disaster Fund can do so securely online at sar.my/africaappeal.
From a report by International Emergency Services