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UN Migration Agency Supports Ebola Response in DR Congo, Border-Crossings

Over the past few days, IOM, the UN Migration Agency, has raced to support the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Congolese Ministry of Health in addressing the needs of communities affected by the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). IOM is focusing on population mobility mapping at border-crossings and in the affected province, as well as risk communication and sanitary control.

DRC’s Ministry of Health declared an Ebola outbreak a week ago (08/05), reporting 21 suspected cases including 17 deaths in the Ikoko Impenge Health Area of Bikoro Health Zone, located in the Equateur Province. Since then, the number of suspected cases and deaths has grown.

Equateur Province has a population of approximately 2.5 million people spread across an area of over 100,000 square kilometres. The remote Bikoro Health Zone is extremely difficult for the humanitarian community to access, with limited communication and transport infrastructure. The region shares borders with the Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. People are continuously moving across these borders both by land and through the Congo River, which puts a great importance on the prevention and control of Ebola.

“Communicable diseases like Ebola know no borders,” said Jean-Philippe Chauzy, IOM DRC Chief of Mission. “As with last year’s outbreak, IOM is committed to supporting DRC’s Ministry of Health and its National Programme of Hygiene at Borders to complete population mobility mapping, improve sanitary controls and carry out risk communications at border-crossings and in affected areas.” Chauzy added, “Considering the risk of cross-border transmission, it is also imperative that neighbouring countries enhance surveillance measures and prepare to detect, investigate and respond to potential Ebola cases.” 

Population mobility mapping of the Bikoro Health Zone, neighbouring Health Zones and the whole Equateur Province carried out by IOM will help the humanitarian community know which locations are the busiest points that people travel through and should have health measures strengthened, including risk communication, active case finding or health screenings and setting up of infection prevention and control measures, among others.

IOM will also monitor flows at major border crossing points and congregation points to quantify cross-border and internal movements, and obtain the demographic and movement profiles of travellers. In addition, IOM will assist the facilitation of cross-border coordination and information sharing with neighbouring countries to ensure surveillance and operational readiness for early detection, investigation and response to potential cases of Ebola.

IOM will communicate with international travellers, internal travellers and host communities about Ebola prevention, detection and response. These risk communications will be carried out at priority locations with heavy population movements, as identified through IOM’s population mobility mapping, which will also map the various languages used in each location.

IOM will also set up infection prevention and control measures at priority border crossings, travel routes and congregation points, in similar areas to those in which IOM will be communicating about health risks. A referral mechanism is being developed and will be used to help sick travellers.

With a proven record in responding to Ebola crises, IOM is appealing to donors for USD 500,000 to carry out these surveillance, health screening, risk communications and infection prevention and control activities, as well as population mobility mapping and cross-border coordination.

During the previous outbreak in the DRC’s Bas-Uele Province in 2017, IOM trained and equipped 25 Congolese border health officials on integrated disease surveillance, risk communication and outbreak management. They were then deployed to the epi-centre of the outbreak and to nearby border posts to strengthen surveillance, health screening and disinfection and risk communication. IOM also conducted flow monitoring at 13 key intervention sites.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, IOM supported the health response at border areas and crossings and set up Ebola Treatment Units.

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of International Organization for Migration (IOM).
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