News article

Winning community trust in Ebola control

Since the outbreak was declared in August 2018, response teams have faced difficulties in their efforts to bring the epidemic under control. In 2019, WHO recorded around 390 attacks on health care facilities. The attacks killed 11 and injured 83 health workers.

In February 2019, Ebola treatment centres in Butembo and Katwa towns were twice set ablaze, and in March, both were burned to the ground. Richard Mouzoko, a doctor working for the WHO, was attacked and killed in April during a meeting at Butembo University Hospital.

These attacks have often severely curtailed operations, allowing Ebola to flare up. Recent armed attacks in Beni, Biakato and Mangina threaten the efforts made to control the spread of the virus in the hotspots.

Incidents arising from community reluctance to Ebola response peaked in June 2019 when 371 incidents were recorded. A community engagement survey revealed a significant lack of trust in the responders: around 36% of respondents trusted the Ebola responders; a third denied the existence of Ebola and another 30% did not know about the disease. Some 33% believed rumours around the Ebola vaccine.

More than 80% of the respondents had heard rumours about Ebola treatment centres, and many people said they were scared of dying there.     

Mwami Saidi Katwa was one of a group of traditional leaders from Kalonge, South Kivu, who met Boiro recently. He complained that the early response teams had failed to properly engage with him and the other chiefs. Learning from initial mistakes, WHO then started engaging with community teams in a better way.

To read more visit the WHO Africa page here

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