In the fight against Ebola, preparedness saves lives

Close to the border with the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where an Ebola outbreak continues, more than 100 community health volunteers in Cibitoke District, Burundi are having one of the more important discussions of their working lives: Dr Belyse Ndayimirije, a health promotion officer with the World Health Organization (WHO), advises them on how to prevent, detect and report suspected cases of the Ebola virus disease.

More than 1 760 people have died in neighbouring DRC since the tenth outbreak began in August 2018. The virus has moved closer to the 236 km-long border with Burundi.
“They take home a classic ‘picture box’ graphic to spot the symptoms of diseases like malaria,” explains Dr Ndayahoze. “But today’s training and the latest graphic include all key information about the Ebola virus disease and how to report it.”
With WHO support, more than 4 000 community health volunteers, like the women above, have been trained in Burundi as part of a coordinated national surveillance strategy. Similarly, all district health staff, especially those from priority districts that border the DRC, as well as all teams that supervise community-based surveillance actions, are now fully trained.
The strong involvement of communities, including mothers like this woman in Cibitoke, in surveillance is crucial to prevent the spread of Ebola in the countries neighbouring DRC, especially in the four priority countries of – Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda – that border the Ebola-affected provinces of the DRC.
Screening at the official border crossing points is also crucial. In Burundi, the 21 official crossing points on the border with the DRC, like this one at Gatumba, are now able to screen travellers for symptoms of Ebola, and medical teams are fully equipped to safely manage suspected cases.

“To date, Burundi has screened around 8 million travellers,” explains Dr Ruhana Bisimwa Mirindi, WHO Emergency Coordinator in Burundi. “All points of entry also have infection prevention and control supplies.”

Surveillance is one of 12 interventions for Ebola preparedness in high-risk countries. WHO and partners are supporting the four countries at highest risk to step up their preparedness in these 12 areas. Funding for Ebola preparedness, which is essential for countries to put in place the necessary systems to prevent, detect, investigate and report suspected Ebola cases, as well as adequately manage patients, is trickling in.
Preparedness also helps countries establish comprehensive, lasting systems that can swiftly block any outbreak of Ebola or other infectious diseases in the future. As this health volunteer in Cibitoke has now learned, preparedness can better protect her and save countless lives.
For Additional Information or to Request Interviews, Please contact:
Sakuya OKA

Communications Manager
WHO Regional Office for Africa
Cell: +242 06 508 1009
Email: okas [at] who.int