DRC health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga: Lack of engagement of community leaders is one of the main obstacles to the Ebola response (3)

9 April, 2019

This news makes a bad situation worse if the minister on whose mandate it lies to promote, prevent, cure and rehabilitate patients in health care, if the DRC health minister Oly Ilunga Kalenga, as reported, says that 'Lack of engagement of community leaders is one of the main obstacles to the Ebola response'. On the other hand his public admission of failure sounds like a cry for help, which he should be given from across those countries that have faced and may be still facing the same situation. Poor health literacy is not limited to the rural poor and illiterate, infact many well educated city dwellers and even health workers suffer from varying degrees of health misinformation and myths. Not too long ago we discussed some of these factors on HIFA forum.

Just to cite one of many occasions in Nigeria when all hands needed to be on deck both national, subnational and international authorities converged their efforts - in 2012, UNICEF Chief in Nigeria was reported to say, 'We continue to miss too many children during polio campaigns in Nigeria and that is why we continue to have cases', said Paryss Kouta, UNICEF Chief of Polio Communication a.i. in Nigeria. Koranic school teachers, or Tsangaya teachers, have an important role to play in ensuring each and every child is reached during polio campaigns given the fact that many children can be found in their schools. Engaging religious schools, institutions and leaders will help build community ownership for immunization and help reduce on-going misconceptions and resistance to immunization. The Tsangaya School Strategy involvess the full engagement of religious school teachers who are critical community leaders and opinion-makers in their communities. For polio eradication to succeed, it is important to engage and ensure the full participation of all sectors of society and in particular the communities themselves.

Advocacy meetings and sensitization workshops will be organized with high-level policy makers, traditional and religious leaders, including the Association of Proprietors of Koranic Schools in each of the participating local governments. Tsangaya teachers will also be engaged during immunization campaigns as part of the social mobilization teams within their respective settlements for the purpose of convincing those households which may refuse immunization. This project will also engage Preachers and Imams, especially during Friday Mosque sessions to ensure the community is fully aware of the importance of immunization during every campaign and the risks to children who are not immunized. Rallies with school children and other awareness activities will be further organized at the community level in each of the participating local governments.' The project will be implemented in Jigawa and Zamfara which are among the highest risk states in Nigeria where there is ongoing circulation of wild poliovirus. This year Nigeria is experiencing an upsurge in the number of polio cases, with a total of 69 cases of wild poliovirus in 11 states, compared to 31 in 6 states in 2011. Community resistance continues to be a key challenge in these states, where the proportion of refusals accounted for 23% of missed children in the July 2012 Immunisation Plus Days.'

I am sure members in other countries have similar experiences that DRCongo can learn from very quickly. Every group and individuals that need to be mobilised for this Public Health emergency must be mobilised

Joseph Ana.


@Health Resources International (HRI) WA.

National Implementing Organisation: 12-Pillar Clinical Governance

National Implementing Organisation: PACK Nigeria Programme for PHC

Publisher: Medical and Health Journals; Books and Periodicals.

Nigeria: 8 Amaku Street, State Housing & 20 Eta Agbor Road, Calabar.

Tel: +234 (0) 8063600642

Website: www.hriwestafrica.com email: jneana@yahoo.co.uk ; hriwestafrica@gmail.com

HIFA profile: Joseph Ana is the Lead Consultant and Trainer at the Africa Centre for Clinical Governance Research and Patient Safety in Calabar, Nigeria. In 2015 he won the NMA Award of Excellence for establishing 12-Pillar Clinical Governance, Quality and Safety initiative in Nigeria. He has been the pioneer Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) National Committee on Clinical Governance and Research since 2012. He is also Chairman of the Quality & Performance subcommittee of the Technical Working Group for the implementation of the Nigeria Health Act. He is a pioneer Trustee-Director of the NMF (Nigerian Medical Forum) which took the BMJ to West Africa in 1995. He is particularly interested in strengthening health systems for quality and safety in LMICs. He has written Five books on the 12-Pillar Clinical Governance for LMICs, including a TOOLS for Implementation. He established the Department of Clinical Governance, Servicom & e-health in the Cross River State Ministry of Health, Nigeria in 2007. Website: www.hriwestafrica.com Joseph is a member of the HIFA Steering Group: http://www.hifa.org/people/steering-group