Vaccination, a central strategy in the fight against Ebola in DRC: A new outbreak in the North Kivu (northeast region)
Barely a week after the announcement on August 1st of a new Ebola epidemic in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo, vaccination against this deadly disease started in the two epicentres of the epidemic. More than 3000 doses of the vaccine were transferred from Kinshasa to the affected areas to enable a quick roll-out of the vaccination campaign.
Dr. Tajudeen Oyewale, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in the DRC was present at the start of the vaccination on August 10th in Beni, one of the epicentres of the epidemic.
"Vaccination is a crucial strategy to control the disease," says Dr. Oyewale. "The past epidemic in the west of the country - when the vaccination was first used - clearly demonstrated the importance of the vaccine to prevent the spread of the disease."
Vaccines are given to health workers who are on the frontline to treat people infected by this deadly disease as well as to people that have been in contact with infected persons, and contacts of these contacts. This ring vaccination helps to contain the spread of the disease. The vaccine is given free and on a voluntary basis.
UNICEF is playing a leading role in providing information on vaccination to the communities affected by this Ebola outbreak. UNICEF works with local authorities to train community workers in raising awareness on key information relative to the vaccine among affected communities and providing pre-counselling for eligible people.
Dr Oyewale: "For the vaccination campaign to be effective, it is crucial that we engage the local communities. They need to understand how the vaccination is organised and how they can participate. That is why our communication work on the vaccination is so important."
As the messages are new and complex, it takes some time for the entire communities to capture the full content of the vaccination messages. UNICEF has deployed twelve communication specialists to the affected areas to work with community workers on communication efforts on safe hygiene and sanitation practices to contain this outbreak, and on the communication on the vaccination. More staff will be deployed in the coming days.
The communication efforts around vaccination are part of the overall social mobilization and community communication that UNICEF is running with its partners to sensitize the population about Ebola and the way to protect oneself against this disease and to avoid the spread of it.