While the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is confronting the public health emergency posed by COVID-19, the country is still facing the last phase of its Ebola virus epidemic.
The first case of COVID-19 was reported on 10 March 2020 in Kinshasa. Since then, the number of COVID-19 patients has increased, exceeding 700 cases at the beginning of May.
Meanwhile the International Organization for Migration (IOM) remains on the frontlines facing the country’s tenth Ebola virus outbreak since August 2018, working side-by-side with the government and health actors to bring the emergency in eastern DRC to an end.
At borders crossings, entrances to major cities and other busy transit hubs, IOM brings its expertise in supporting the National Border Hygiene Program (PNHF), setting up and managing 108 health screening points where travelers wash their hands and get checked for Ebola disease symptoms. Through this past April, over 170 million travelers have been screened and 10,000 alerts reported.
To date, 4,000 persons have been affected by the Ebola Virus disease.
“We are now building on this expertise to support the measures taken by the authorities in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic throughout the country”, said Fabien Sambussy, IOM Chief of Mission in the DRC.
COVID-19 currently affects seven provinces in the DRC. In the commune of Gombe--the current epicenter of COVID-19 in the DRC--IOM has established over 60 handwashing stations and five new screening points where frontline workers check for physical symptoms of the disease.
Together with humanitarian partners, IOM is ensuring new frontline workers are properly trained. IOM also tries to see that anyone displaying symptoms of COVID-19 is isolated and receives care.
In certain sectors of the DRC’s capital, Kinshasa, the extreme vulnerability of people who cannot afford self-isolation led to a request of the Technical Secretariat of the COVID-19 response in the DRC that IOM open an isolation site for less severe confirmed COVID-19 cases in the capital city.
This site, with an initial capacity of around 100 patients, will allow the most vulnerable to be isolated while assisted with basic needs, including health care. By providing these patients with a location for isolation and adequate follow-up by qualified health personnel, the risk of widespread infection within communities is mitigated.
Since the beginning of April, more than half a million people have been checked for symptoms of the disease at these new screening points, in line with physical distancing and other prevention recommendations. A total of 23 cases of alerts have been reported to the authorities for further investigation.
In addition, IOM in the DRC continues to strongly advocate for the inclusion of displaced and migrant populations in national preparedness and response plans for public health crises like Ebola and COVID-19.