WHO Africa: Defeating Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo motivates a community to confront other diseases with handwashing

21 October, 2019

From the WHO Africa website. Full text here: https://www.afro.who.int/news/defeating-ebola-democratic-republic-congo-...

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“These hands are our most important tools of work but can also be a source of disease and death,” the Nyiragongo Health Zone director, Dr Dan Kapuku, tells the Kiziba community members who have gathered to learn better handwashing practices in the era of Ebola and other infectious diseases.

The mood among the Kiziba residents who have gathered outside their health clinic is of confidence. When Dr Boniface Hakizimana, the Team Lead for Infection Control and Prevention of the World Health Organization (WHO), tells them that “Ebola came here but you defeated it by mostly washing hands,” a celebratory cheer erupts from the group. Thanks to awareness campaigns by the Government and WHO, they also know what else it takes to guard against the spread of the Ebola virus disease. A sense of pride, even a sense of empowerment, comes charging from the crowd of people who have lived with the threat of one of the most feared diseases in the world for almost a year.

After the first Ebola patient was confirmed in Goma, a massive campaign was launched to encourage communities to practise better hygiene, especially handwashing, to stop transmission of the virus. The effort bore results – the spread of the virus was curtailed...

“There is no culture of handwashing here, and people do not link the spread of disease to it... But we are showing them how it affects families when a loved one gets sick and how it affects education when children are unable to go school because of sickness.”

For the Kiziba community, the message seems to be sinking in. Around the corner from the health centre, school children line up for a tutorial from a health worker on how to properly wash hands. They take turns following the prescribed steps to apply water, soap and scrub.

These children will grow up in this era of improved hand hygiene practices, which will give them more assured freedom from communicable diseases and longer healthy lives.

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Best wishes, Neil

Coordinator, HIFA Project on Information for Citizens, Parents and Children

http://www.hifa.org/projects/citizens-parents-and-children

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org