Children must be at heart of response to Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of the Congo, UNICEF says

Children continue to be at risk and are affected by the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), making it essential that their health and well-being are prioritized in the response.

“Schools are crucial for engaging children and their communities in the fight against Ebola,” said Dr. Gianfranco Rotigliano, UNICEF Representative in the DRC, traveling back from the affected region.

“That’s why UNICEF is putting in place measures to minimize the risk of transmission in schools, including temperature taking and handwashing.”

UNICEF is scaling up prevention efforts in schools across all three affected health zones. This includes on-going efforts to install hand washing units in 277 schools and supporting awareness-raising activities reaching more than 13,000 children in Mbandaka, Bikoro, and Iboko.

UNICEF is also concerned about the wellbeing of children with family members who have contracted the disease. “Children whose parents or caregivers die of Ebola or who live in isolation because they had contact with an infected person, need psychosocial support to help them cope,” said Dr. Rotigliano.

Previous Ebola outbreaks have demonstrated the need for social workers to identify and assist vulnerable children. Twenty-two psychosocial agents trained by UNICEF and its partners are providing assistance to families that are affected by the Ebola outbreak, while UNICEF is also supporting 23 families and their children who have relatives infected with Ebola by supplying household kits and food rations.

UNICEF continues to work closely with communities to promote behaviors that help stop transmissions, such as safe burials and hand-washing. The children’s agency is engaging in dialogue with community leaders, conducting outreach campaigns and supporting door-to-door awareness-raising campaigns. In Mdandaka, 706 community actors were identified and are being deployed for Ebola prevention communication and community social engagement.

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