Democratic Republic of the Congo: supporting the fight against Ebola

Project completed
a group of health workers listen to the trainer's instructions, assisted by two individuals wearing protective clothing.
Training for carers at various health centres in the Oicha area. ©Medair/Conner Wingerter

The unpredictable nature of epidemics and the humanitarian situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo pose a challenge. The Democratic Republic of the Congo is experiencing the tenth Ebola outbreak in the country's history. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Medair have mounted a rapid and flexible response to stop the virus from spreading in North Kivu province.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Democratic Republic Congo

Primary health care
Basic nutrition
Reproductive health & rights
01.08.2018 - 30.04.2019
CHF  1’359’156

With SDC backing, Medair is implementing an emergency healthcare project in North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). From the outset, the project has supported six local health centres in areas affected by conflict and population displacement. Emergency mobile health clinics have been set up under the project to support communities affected by epidemics or conflict. 

In August 2018, when the virus first emerged in North Kivu, Medair deployed units in a number of the Ebola-hit areas. These Medair units provide free healthcare in line with recommendations issued by the DRC Ministry for Health. They are also involved in upgrading drinking water supply, hygiene and sanitation systems. Furthermore, Medair units assist healthcare facilities in identifying suspected cases of the disease, isolating the sick and referring them to Ebola treatment centres.

Increased funding to halt the spread of Ebola

Additional funding provided by the SDC in August 2018 has enabled Medair to support double the number of health centres in responding to the epidemic. In this next stage of the project, the emphasis is on stopping the virus from spreading in areas with high levels of insecurity. A further objective is to provide water supply and wastewater treatment services at seven health centres in the affected areas, allowing some 200,000 people to receive free healthcare.

To prepare for and respond to an emergency, it is crucial to provide access to drinking water for health centres in line with Ebola protocols, clean and disinfect premises, including facilities for isolating Ebola patients, ensure that hospital waste is properly managed and incinerated, build latrines and showers, train healthcare workers in infection control and prevention, and supply hygiene kits to health centre staff to allow infrastructure to be properly maintained. 

"Medair was the first NGO to come to our health centre during the Ebola outbreak", says Dr Marthe at the Mamove referral health centre in the Oicha region. "Work got underway quickly at the health centre and within the community. Water chlorination points are already in place. Our community has received training in how to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus. The outbreak has not posed a serious threat to Mamove and we believe Medair's water, hygiene and sanitation initiatives will help keep Ebola at bay," Dr Marthe explains.

Impact beyond the health centres

The support is benefiting neighbouring communities as well as health centres and their staff. Medair is setting up chlorination points facilitating access to drinking water, building hand-washing stations and raising awareness of best practices in disease prevention. Medair also supplies kits containing hand-washing equipment and disinfection agents to households with suspected cases of Ebola.

"Flexible implementation of project operations and the ability to amend our current SDC agreement swiftly have enabled us not just to deliver a package of operations consistent with our Ebola response, but also, more importantly, to reach more people than ever before", explains Conner Wingerter, Medair project manager based in Beni. 

The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Medair, a Swiss NGO, have been operating as partners in the DRC since 2013.