Democratic Republic of the Congo
Faces Down Ebola Outbreaks

How International Medical Corps is helping the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the fight against Ebola

On August 1, 2018, an outbreak of Ebola on the eastern edge of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) began that grew to become the second-largest ever, exceeded in size only by the 2014 outbreak in West Africa. On July 17, 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

After almost two years, thanks to the persistence and skill of our staff and other healthcare workers in the region, the end of the outbreak in this region was officially declared over on June 25, 2020.

However, on June 1, 2020, the government had announced an outbreak near Mbandaka in Équateur province, roughly 750 miles west of the outbreak on the country’s eastern edge. International Medical Corps deployed a rapid response team to support response efforts by the DRC Ministry of Health and the WHO, and ran three Ebola Treatment Center (ETCs) in the region. We also helped with treatment, infection prevention and control, screening, training and capacity-building. Thankfully, the end of this outbreak—the country’s 11th—was officially declared over on November 18, 2020.

We are now supporting the country during a 90-day period of heightened surveillance, continuing our efforts to screen for suspected cases and prevent a resurgence of this deadly disease, famous for its unpredictability.

As part of our efforts to build local response capacity in the east, we built, opened and operated an ETC in Makeke (now transitioned to a hospital for the community); operated Ebola Transit Centers in Beni and Mambassa; and operated an ETC in Mangina, the initial epicenter of the outbreak. In addition to providing treatment, vaccination and contact tracing, International Medical Corps constructed nearly 100 screening-and-referral units throughout the region. We remain in close contact with the Ministry of Health, local health officials and the international community to identify any additional support we can provide, should future outbreaks occur.

International Medical Corps has extensive experience and expertise in stopping the spread of Ebola, having responded in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea-Bissau in the wake of the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic. We served as a key implementation partner for the World Health Organization, fielding a team of more than 1,500 and treating nearly 460 Ebola-positive patients in our five treatment centers. We helped host governments prevent further transmission of the virus, provided critical training to frontline health workers—and, importantly, stayed after the outbreak to continue to build local health systems and provide mental health and psychosocial counseling to those affected by the deadly disease.

We will build on our breadth and depth of experience in DRC, where we’ve provided vital health services since 1999, as we continue to support the Ministry of Health’s efforts to contain the Ebola virus.

Before being declared over on November 18, 2020, the outbreak in Équateur province had sickened 130 people (119 confirmed and 11 probable) and killed 55, according to DRC Ministry of Health data
When the outbreak in the east was officially declared over on June 25, 3,470 cases had been reported (including 3,324 confirmed and 153 probable cases), with 2,287 deaths and 1,171 survivors
We operate three Ebola Treatment Centers in Équateur province
We have drilled boreholes across the regions to provide health centers with access to clean water​, and rehabilitated waste management systems, including incinerators, sharps pits, burn pits and waste zones​
We have constructed 95 screening-and-referral units (SRUs), and are preparing to construct more
Since August 2018, SRUs supported by International Medical Corps have conducted more than 1.2 million screenings, and we have trained 1,711 health staff in infection prevention and control

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What happened?

    In early August 2018, one week after an earlier Ebola outbreak was officially declared over, new cases of the Ebola virus were confirmed in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by the DRC’s Ministry of Health. Since then, the outbreak grew to be the second-largest in history, leading to a declaration by the World Health Organization of the outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. After two years, this outbreak was officially declared over, but a new outbreak—the country’s 11th—began to spread near Mbandaka in Équateur province, roughly 750 miles west of the outbreak on the country’s eastern edge. That outbreak was declared over on November 18, 2020.

  • What were the potential consequences?

    North Kivu and Ituri provinces are located in northeastern DRC, along the border with Uganda and Rwanda, increasing the chances that the virus could spread beyond borders. Security issues further complicated efforts to contain the deadly virus, as the provinces have been plagued by ongoing conflict for the last 20 years. Though there were concerns that the outbreak in Équateur province could spread to the neighboring Republic of the Congo, it was brought under control in less than six months.

  • How is International Medical Corps responding?

    International Medical Corps’ team in the DRC conducted disease-treatment, surveillance and infection-prevention activities in the provinces, as well as providing training to healthcare staff. International Medical Corps also distributed essential infection-prevention and hygiene supplies to health facilities—including handwashing stations, personal protective equipment (PPE), water basins, liquid soap and jerry cans—to ensure that trained staff had the resources they need to prevent the transmission of disease. We remain in close contact with the Ministry of Health, local health officials and the international community to identify any additional support we can provide, and remain on standby in Kinshasa and Mbandaka to deploy as necessary.

  • Does International Medical Corps have experience with Ebola?

    We have extensive experience and expertise in stopping the spread of Ebola, having responded in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Mali and Guinea-Bissau in the wake of the 2014 West Africa Ebola epidemic, which killed thousands of people. With a team of more than 1,500 staff, we treated a total of nearly 460 Ebola-positive patients in our five treatment units, helped governments prevent further transmission of the virus, provided critical training to front-line health workers—and, importantly, stayed after the outbreak to continue to build local health systems as well as provide mental health and psychosocial counseling to those affected by the deadly disease.

What we know about fighting Ebola

We talk with Dr. Adam Levine, the technical lead of International Medical Corps’ Ebola response, about the challenges facing those preparing to respond to the rapidly brewing emergency in Democratic Republic of Congo.

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