On August 1, 2018, the government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) declared a new outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the northeast part of the country. (Congo Initiative is based in Beni, North Kivu, just a few miles from the initial epicenter of the outbreak.) The DRC Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations and UNICEF have worked jointly with local health officials in the region to respond quickly to reduce the spread and impact of EVD. Their response has been complicated by various factors, including “a volatile security situation and community resistance.” As a result, on September 28, 2018, the WHO revised its risk assessment for the outbreak, elevating the risk at national and regional levels from “high to very high,” while keeping the global risk assessment as “low.” On October 17, 2018, an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee convened and concluded the outbreak does not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern, although the outbreak is still deeply concerning and the risk of spread to neighboring countries remains very high.”
Over the past month, an escalation of insecurity continues to undermine response activities and a surge of new Ebola cases have been reported in Beni. Of further concern, violent skirmishes have occurred not far from our university’s campus (Université Chrétienne Bilingue du Congo/UCBC).
RESPONSE BY THE CONGO INITIATIVE COMMUNITY IN BENI
Shortly after the outbreak was first declared, our Crisis Management Team decided to instruct international staff to leave Congo. The return of international staff will align with official guidelines that require 21 days from the last reported and confirmed case of EVD to consider the outbreak over.
We’ve been informed that no threats have been made to our CI-UCBC operations or community, but remain deeply concerned about the fragility of the situation. We continue to monitor the situation closely and are in constant communication with our leadership on the ground. They are evaluating both the security situation and Ebola outbreak daily, and consulting local officials and international health experts to make necessary adjustments to programs and take appropriate precautions. Some of these adjustments include:
- Delayed start to activities at our primary schools.
- Adjusted work hours for UCBC activities and other CI programs to avoid the need to travel during the early morning or evening hours.
- Reinforcement of sanitary stations on campus.
- Mass dissemination and postings of hygiene practices and other preventive measures.
- Installation of new lighting fixtures around campus for increased security.
- Academic activities at UCBC have been delayed by the local association for universities and higher education. However, to avoid further delays and disruptions, our leadership is securing facilities in the center of Beni and classes are expected to begin soon. Though this is not an ideal situation, it allows the UCBC community to continue its work in educating the future leaders of Congo and provides increased visibility and opportunity to welcome new students.
SUPPORTING THE EBOLA RESPONSE EFFORTS
Our Bethesda Counseling Center is playing an active role in the Ebola response, providing psychosocial support and training healthcare workers. Counselors continue to facilitate grief counseling and stress management while also training community leaders in the same practices. As the Ebola cases are increasing, the center is also collaborating with others to equip the population in Beni on how to cope with the impact of the virus.
UCBC students are also joining the fight against Ebola by raising awareness of the disease through social media campaigns and disseminating information on important preventative measures.
For the latest updates and more information about Ebola, please visit WHO’s website.
For questions or further information, please contact our Director of Communications, Justin Hubbard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 919-806-7297.