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Sensitization on hygiene and the need to wash hands for beneficiaries of food rations in South Lubero, March 2019

Mistrust of aid workers: a new challenge in Ebola response

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) went through decades of conflict that plunged it into a humanitarian crisis causing the suffering of 12.8 million people. Despite the presence of humanitarian actors, the crisis is making daily victims due to structural misfunctioning of the state, an underfunded Humanitarian Response Plan and lack of donor interest.

In addition to an already extremely vulnerable humanitarian situation in the North Kivu province, a 10th Ebola epidemic was declared in August 2018.

As of June 2019, more than 2,008 people have been infected with Ebola, of which 1,346 have died so far, making the outbreak the second largest in history. Around 10 new cases are being reported daily.

Violence by armed groups and community mistrust towards aid workers have severely undermined the attempts to halt the epidemic, sometimes forcing health workers to suspend vaccination and the provision of medical treatment. The reasons behind the mistrust are varied and complex.

Meeting unmet humanitarian needs.

The current focus on Ebola compounds the many other unmet humanitarian needs facing the population.

Christian Aid in the DRC is working in partnership with local organisations to provide humanitarian assistance to 94,000 people in the North Kivu province where Ebola is raging. Our work aims to increase food security through the distribution of over 1,500 Metric Tons of food rations for more than 40,000 people, including displaced people living with host families, returnees and the most vulnerable host families and preventing the spread of Ebola by building latrines and water sources, carrying out hygiene promotion sessions and providing psychosocial support to those affected by the virus.

Lessons on hygiene and the need to wash hands being given to those receiving food rations in South Lubero.

Lessons on hygiene and the need to wash hands being given to those receiving food rations in South Lubero, March 2019

The Ebola epidemic combined with the community mistrust of aid workers pose additional challenges in the provision of humanitarian assistance for our teams. Food distributions need to have hand-washing stations and hygiene promotion messages, without specifically mentioning Ebola because of potential community resistance.

The staff involved in the distributions have been vaccinated against the virus and carry with them lots of disinfectants.

Albert Kengo, Programme Officer in the DRC

Engaging with the community is key but a very sensitive issue due to people’s perceptions about the virus and against health workers in parts of the province. Our work through a local partner helps to mitigate those risks, which are also being addressed in coordination meetings in Goma in order to find the right solutions and approaches.