The following is a guest post by Olivier Kakesa, MPH, of MEASURE Evaluation
The Democratic Republic of Congo government’s response to the outbreak of Ebola in the country’s northwest Bikoro, Equatuer province includes mobilization of national epidemiological experts and local health staff to deal with the outbreak, vaccinating key personnel — such as health workers — and instituting preventive management and treatment of suspected cases. MEASURE Evaluation, funded by the United States Agency for International Development with support of the President’s Malaria Initiative, has been working in DRC on its health information system and commends the government for this prompt response, which should help contain this epidemic.
Since June 2013, MEASURE Evaluation has contributed to strengthening the health information system — or HIS — particularly in the fight against malaria. Since the Ebola epidemic in 2014, MEASURE Evaluation has contributed to the implementation of the DHIS 2 software platform, an important tool that has helped improve the availability of health data, including data that helped identify the Ebola outbreak in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Mali, Senegal and most recently, Burkina Faso. The HIS is an important pillar for the health sector in that the quality data produced where health services are delivered goes up the line and can lead health data analysts and managers to take useful action. Particularly in the context of the Ebola virus, cases of fever with hemorrhage reported by health center providers led to the initial investigation and detection of the Ebola virus.
In the DRC, the Ebola vaccination campaign began the week of May 21 in the northwest part of the country, focusing on health personnel who have had contact with patients and on patients’ contacts. In addition, free medical care is provided in the affected health zone and social assistance to families affected by the disease. Checkpoints are organized at ports and airports with systematic temperature checks for all travelers and the quarantining of those with temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius.
Radio, television, and local newspapers — and the international press — are helping to spread word of the outbreak. Among these are France 24, TV5, and RFI, which command a wide audience nationally. In addition, the government of the DRC has recruited community workers — commonly known as “community relays”— to ensure awareness of the outbreak in nearby villages and neighborhoods.
Current efforts to strengthen the HIS, including disease surveillance, need to be consolidated to respond even more effectively to suspected cases and to curb the current Ebola epidemic in the DRC. In West Africa, MEASURE Evaluation is working with Global Health Security Agenda funds to support disease surveillance efforts at all levels of government, supporting the country-specific roadmaps that have been established in each place.
As the World Health Organization recognized in 2015, in the midst of the Ebola disease outbreak in West Africa, “In a disease outbreak, all are at risk. We have learned that the global surveillance and response system is only as strong as its weakest links, and in an increasingly globalized world, a disease threat in one country is a threat to us all. Shared vulnerability means shared responsibility and therefore requires sharing of resources, and sharing of information.”*
Olivier Kakesa is Senior Technical Specialist and DRC Resident Advisor for MEASURE Evaluation
For more information:
Learning, to Prevent the Next Outbreak (video): https://vieo.com/152664842