IMA World Health Fills Critical Gaps in Ebola Response in Northeastern DR Congo
Amid what is now the longest and deadliest of the 10 Ebola outbreaks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, IMA World Health — with funding from the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance — continues to work with local organizations and communities to strengthen government-led responses.
The Ebola virus is highly transmissible through infected body fluids, and soiled foam mattresses are prime conduits of infection. They must be destroyed following the transfer or burial of Ebola victims, and there was a critical need for durable, covered replacement mattresses for clinics and homes.
The loss of a $50 foam mattress is a significant expense for most health facilities and even more of a hardship for families who often share mattresses among multiple family members and can’t afford to replace those that had to be destroyed. Purchasing vinyl-covered mattresses typically requires an overseas procurement, a process that is both expensive and time-consuming.
IMA World Health identified a local company able to fabricate mattresses with the durable, heavy-duty vinyl cover requested by the Ebola commission, led by the Congo Ministry of Health. Within just a week of the request, 100 mattresses were delivered to health centers in Beni and Oicha.
IMA in-country partner Tearfund is working with religious leaders from Catholic and Protestant churches to engage their respective congregations in the fight against Ebola.
The Anglican bishop, along with dozens of other religious leaders, convened a day of awareness and cooperation, engaging more than 340 congregations in the city of Butembo. T-shirts, banners and flyers were distributed while locally-produced songs touted the importance of joining together to confront this deadly disease.
Monseigneur Sikuli Paluku, the Catholic bishop of Butembo, convened parish priests from Beni-Butembo-Katwa to promote the importance of “safe and dignified burials,” which allow family members of Ebola victims to see the deceased before they are buried in an identifiable grave.
Cultural traditions in the region, such as the ritual washing and touching of corpses of family members, has been a significant cause of viral transmission. The bishop advocated the need to allow Ebola response teams to test the deceased with rapid swab tests before burial. His instructions have had a significant impact in increasing community cooperation with Ebola response teams.