Global Fund 250th crisis alert: Ebola outbreak in the DRC
A fresh outbreak of Ebola in the North Kivu province of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has become the focus of the 250th alert by the Start Fund.
The Start Fund responded immediately to the fresh outbreak, awarding funding to Save the Children and Oxfam to undertake a rapid emergency intervention in this remote area of the DRC, where they both have a long-established presence and the trust of the local community. Both Oxfam and Save the Children will be responding as part of a wider government-led response to the outbreak.
Harnessing the experience and expertise of their previous Start Fund awarded response (alert 233) for the recently cleared Ebola outbreak, Oxfam will respond in the Beni region of North Kivu province, where their key focus will be on public health outreach and community engagement on the risks of Ebola and how to prevent transmission, which has proved crucial to mitigating the spread of the disease.
With a long-established operational presence in the Beni region of North Kivu province, Save the Children will provide immediate assistance to vulnerable children and their affected families. Their response will focus on providing immediate water, health and sanitation provisions in health facilities alongside prioritising infection prevention and control (IPC) preparedness in health facilities.
It is the tenth Ebola outbreak in the country, and the alert was raised days after the previous outbreak in the DRC was declared over. A rapid international and local response helped to contain the Mbandaka city outbreak.
The newest outbreak, confirmed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday 4th August, is located 1,500 miles away from Mbandaka city, in the Congo’s north-eastern North Kivu Province and neighbouring Ituri Province.
Conditions in the affected region pose significant challenges for aid and health workers. The north-eastern provinces share borders with Uganda and Rwanda and are home to more than one million displaced people, while a precarious security situation sees sporadic clashes between government forces and armed militia groups.
Ben Phillips, Humanitarian Officer at Oxfam, said:
“North Kivu is the most populated province in DRC, affected by massive internal displacements and the heavy presence of armed groups. Mangina health area (where the first case was confirmed) is an area receiving many displaced populations from Ituri, Lubero and Beni. These populations live amongst the host community with no formal camps in the area. Significant trade and movement within this area (where population movement is higher compared to other areas of DRC) and between this area and neighbouring countries means risk of Ebola spreading
“Oxfam therefore are taking this response as an utmost priority and a need to rapidly scale up to help prevent the outbreak worsening given the context. However there has been a lack of media attention and donor attention to this outbreak despite the fact it is in a very complex context. Therefore, Start Funds have played a critical role in allowing Oxfam to respond rapidly. Stopping Ebola is all about speed before it escalates and funding at the start of the response from Start Funds can play a role in stopping the outbreak.”
The Start Fund was alerted to the crisis by Oxfam, supported by CAFOD, World Vision, Solidarités International, Première Urgence Internationale, International Alert, and International Medical Corps (IMC), on August 2nd and members agreed to activate the alert the following day. Within 72 hours, funding was awarded to Oxfam and Save the Children to fill the funding gap in this time-critical context and respond to the most urgent, life-saving needs. The response on the ground has just begun.
Both Oxfam and Save the Children will distribute hygiene items to affected and at-risk communities and identify gaps in the current public health system to address protection of health staff and infection prevention and control (IPC) preparedness. The response will also prioritise the provision of clean, safe water to health facilities and treatment centres if called upon, to ensure health workers are able to give those being treated for Ebola the best possible chance of survival.
The response marks a significant milestone for the Start Fund, a pooled rapid-response fund, awarding funding to the 250th alerted crisis since it was launched in April 2014. The fund, run collectively by 42 members of the global Start Network, was set up to tackle under-the-radar emergencies or sudden spikes in humanitarian need within longer-running crises, thus filling the gap in more traditional sources of funding.
The Fund aims for its collective decisions to be impartial and objective, and to have money on its way within 72 hours of an alert being raised. It is supported by the British, Irish, Dutch and Belgian governments and the European Commission. It has enabled emergency aid to reach over nine million people affected by crisis in 59 countries.
Christos Papaioannou, Head of Funds at the Start Network said:
“Four years and four months after the first ever Start Fund alert, we have now reached a milestone with the 250th alert raised for DRC. Start Network members in DRC have alerted the Fund 17 times since the beginning, of which 13 were activated. This makes DRC the country with most Start Fund alerts, a strong indication of the number and different types of humanitarian needs in the country.
“Awarded agencies will work closely with other humanitarian actors, health authorities and affected communities to provide rapid response to the populations most in need, in a disease outbreak that speed is of essence in order to save lives, in a part of the country that has been affected by conflict for nearly 20 years.”
Over the past four years, the Start Fund has responded to 11 crises in the Democratic Republic of Congo, more than any other country. The Fund has responded to 23 disease outbreaks to date around the world, including two Ebola outbreaks in DRC and one in Sierra Leone.
For its 250th alert since inception in 2014, the Start Fund was activated for £356,480 in total. The 45-day response will be reaching 79,750 people in need.