Congo: Women and Children Affected By Ebola Outbreak in Conflict Zones

After the latest Ebola outbreak in the northern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, health care workers are facing difficulties in treating locals, especially vulnerable women and children, due to regional fighting.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus is spreading in the North Kivu Province rapidly. So far 142 cases have been reported among which 50% are of women.

The province is one of the most unstable provinces in the region. An official of WHO Peter Salama told that about 20 militant groups are working in the area making it unsafe for the healthcare workers to perform their duties.

Salama also told that the first confirmed case of Ebola came from the provincial town of Oicha was of a doctor’s wife. When the WHO team traveled to the area, they were accompanied by the armed UN peacekeepers due to security reasons.

Conflict in the region is not only creating problems for the health workers to get access to the area and the affected people, but it is also bringing difficulties to the residents of the area from seeking medical care.

In the town of Mangina, pregnant women and girls are reluctant to go to clinics and healthcare units for fear of catching Ebola, according to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the UN’s sexual and reproductive health agency.

According to the agency, about 60 percent of those infected are females. It is because they are more exposed to situations with a greater risk of catching the disease. Traditionally, women take care of the sick patients.

Many children in the area also becoming the victim of Ebola as many have either contracted the virus or lost family members to the disease.

UNFPA and UNICEF are working in the area to raise community awareness about prevention from this deadly disease. They hand out educational pamphlets to the locals and also arrange seminars for the residents in which they educate them on basic hygiene.

They are also concerned about the cross-border travel to prevent the disease from spreading to neighboring regions. Till the date, no country has implemented travel restrictions to the DRC, according to the WHO.

Ginger Baker

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