18 Jun 2019: Ebola spreading in DRC and threatening neighbouring countries – Finnish Red Cross funding preparedness in Burundi and South Sudan with EUR 103,000
The epidemic has killed over a thousand people in the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the number of cases increasing at an alarming rate in recent weeks. With funding from the Disaster Relief Fund, the Finnish Red Cross has sent an aid worker to the DRC and is strengthening preparedness in neighbouring countries.
The Ebola outbreak that started in the Democratic Republic of Congo last summer is the tenth and most severe outbreak of the disease in the country’s history. Since the start of the outbreak, over 1,700 cases of Ebola have been confirmed and over a thousand people have died of the disease in the DRC.
The aim of the International Red Cross’s emergency appeal is to help 15.5 million people over the course of 15 months in the DRC and neighbouring countries.
The Finnish Red Cross is supporting the appeal by helping South Sudan and Burundi prepare for the epidemic. In addition, FRC aid workers have participated in the international aid operation from its very beginning. At present, there is an FRC aid worker specialising in communications working in the DRC.
Preparedness is crucial, as the areas affected by the epidemic are located at the borders of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Burundi. The risk of the disease spreading to new areas is great.
Combating Ebola requires additional funding
The 31.5-million Swiss franc emergency appeal of the Red Cross is underfunded. If support from the international community does not increase soon, the continuation of the aid operation will be jeopardised.
– This is already the second most deadly Ebola epidemic in history, and the aid work is being hindered by the security situation in the DRC. We cannot afford to let the outbreak spread further, potentially to densely populated cities, as this would make the situation much more difficult to control. Nor can we allow the epidemic to spread to other countries, says the Red Cross’s Head of International Disaster Aid Tiina Saarikoski.
Volunteers helping communities
The Finnish Red Cross’s aid aims at ensuring that the situation in South Sudan and Burundi can be brought immediately under control in the event of the first potential infection.
In the DRC, the International Red Cross is training volunteers to help their local communities.
– We have trained over 1,500 volunteers so far. Their responsibilities include the safe, dignified and culturally appropriate handling and burial of those who have died of the disease. The proper procedure can prevent new infections and save human lives, says aid worker Maria Santto from Goma in the DRC.
The Red Cross is also supporting health stations in preventing infections, offering psychosocial support and strengthening local Red Cross operations in the DRC.