Songs, radio shows, and door-to-door visits: how community awareness is helping defeat Ebola in Congo

10 June, 2018

Extracts below from IRIN, the humanitarian news agency. Full text: http://www.irinnews.org/news-feature/2018/06/07/ebola-congo-songs-radio-...

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Relatives ride in on motorbikes, bust three patients out of an Ebola treatment centre, and take them to a church to be prayed over by 50 people. Later, one dies at home, another in hospital, while the third lives but could have infected an untold number of people.

It sounds like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie, but it took place less than three weeks ago in Mbandaka, a city of 1.2 million people in the Democratic Republic of Congo. A huge effort is now underway here to raise awareness about the virus and prevent its spread.

The government and international NGOs are leading the charge, but some of the most effective work is done by the local community and Church leaders. In the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, for instance, sacraments such as baptisms and anointing ceremonies have been suspended to avert the risk of transmitting Ebola.

“Ebola is real,” stressed community leader Gabriel Selemani at an impromptu gathering near a marketplace. “Don’t play games with it, and don’t listen to rumours and lies being spread around that it is a fairy-tale, an international conspiracy, or as a result of witchcraft.”

In local schools in Mbandaka, teachers hammer home the message too, leading children through a special “Ebola, Go away!” song and making hand-washing and temperature-taking mandatory before class...'

Winning over the sceptics

While most people are cooperating and health workers say all the immediate contacts of known cases in Mbandaka have now been vaccinated, rumours and conspiracy theories have also taken root...

“The so-called Ebola is nothing but a curse. Ebola is a white man’s invention to attempt to control Africa’s resources,” pastor Jean-Pierre Elumba told his riveted congregation, meeting near one of Mbandaka’s many river ports. “Brothers and sisters, whether this Ebola thing exists here in Equateur or not, the truth is that the solution of Ebola lies in repentance, not in washing hands...

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Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children:

http://www.hifa.org/projects/citizens-parents-and-children

Let's build a future where people are no longer dying for lack of healthcare information - Join HIFA: www.hifa.org

HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org