"Every time I pass by a place, people point at me and say, Ebola Doctor"
By Ritah Mwagale
“Every time I pass by a place, people point at me and say, “There is the Ebola doctor!” Gideon says with a broad smile.
While other people would feel uncomfortable with that nickname, 27-year-old Gideon Tumuranze is proud of being called the ‘Ebola doctor’.
Less than two months ago, he and the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) were little known in this community.
Gideon is among the 40 volunteers who were trained by the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in April 2019 with financial support from UNICEF. The three-day training equipped the volunteers with knowledge and skills to conduct Ebola risk communication, community engagement and social mobilization activities.
After the training, the volunteers were deployed in various villages within Bwambara sub-county in Rukungiri District, Western Uganda. Bwambara is located less than 220 kilometres away from the Democratic Republic of Congo where an Ebola outbreak has killed 2,197 people as of 19 November 2019.
When Gideon started working in Nyakabungo village in April 2019, he found a community that was largely unaware of Ebola.
“When I went to that village, the people had no idea about Ebola. They knew about malaria and other infectious diseases like HIV but not Ebola,” he says. With the low awareness in the community, Gideon made it his goal to visit each household and sensitize people on the disease. Within three months, Gideon had visited 245 homes and discussed Ebola prevention practices with more than 1,200 community members.
Gideon is proud of his new title because it shows that people are now aware of the disease and the preventive measures to take to avoid getting Ebola.
“Nowadays, whenever someone falls sick in our area with a disease they don’t understand, they first call me to examine the person. I look at the signs that the person has and compare them with the ones I received during the community volunteer training from LWF. After I have seen that it is not Ebola, I ask the sick person’s caretaker to take them to the nearest health centre for treatment,” says Gideon.
Gideon is grateful for being selected as a project volunteer because not only has it increased his knowledge of Ebola, it has also encouraged him to learn the signs and symptoms of other common diseases so that he can easily rule out Ebola.
“Now whenever someone approaches me, I know what to tell them,” he says. Although UNICEF support to the project has ended, Gideon is not fazed. He is confident that he will continue sensitizing his community.
“I will not keep quiet. I will continue to deliver Ebola information and make our people aware of this killer disease. Ebola is still around, so we need to protect ourselves.”