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Champions of the DR Congo Ebola Response - Part 4

Fabrice and Jacques share their field experiences

In this penultimate part of this series, we bring you the pair of Sewolo Matondo Fabrice

Muzinga Wa Muzinga Jacques who are also beneficiaries of the field epidemiology training program by AFENET with support from the US Centers for Disease Control. Just like their earlier colleagues, the duo shares their contribution to ending the DR Congo’s 10th Ebola Virus Disease outbreak which was declared over at the end of June.

Sewolo Matondo Fabrice

I was involved in coordinating response activities at the Bingo and Buhumbani health areas in the Mabalabako health zone. These included ensuring the active search for suspected cases in health facilities, conducting investigation of suspected cases and follow-up of contacts, organizing and supervising the rings of contact vaccinations around confirmed cases, and coordinating infection prevention and control activities in health facilities.

My other activities were organizing and supervise household decontamination around confirmed cases, drafting of daily activity reports as well as reports of confirmed cases, ensuring the compilation and analysis of health area surveillance data, and providing formative supervision of local teams.

Success drivers

Several factors contributed to our success. Firstly, the training received as that of frontline field epidemiologists made us stand out from the rest by the ability on the ground and the great adaptability we showed. Secondly, it is the optimal collaboration with local teams and the climate of trust established during briefing sessions and community awareness during surveillance activities that allowed good access to information during investigations. We could also cite the promptness and completeness in the preparation of the investigation reports in the activities of the sub-coordination. Also, our great availability to accept the additional missions granted by the sub-coordination of the response made us succeed.

Challenges

The major test was the context of insecurity which raged over almost the entire territory. However, we were also faced with the non-adherence of the community to public health measures and the reluctance of the community to deal with response agents.

Solutions

However, we were able to identify and train community leaders in the health areas and then set up rapid intervention teams in areas inaccessible from a security point of view. We have also organized and participated in community awareness-raising sessions in public places such as schools, churches, etc. with the support of village chiefs, neighborhood chiefs and local officials. Regarding the investigations, we were always accompanied by one of the local community leaders to facilitate access to the community.

And for our emotional well-being, we always made an effort to maintain permanent contact with our families by means of telephone calls every morning after waking up and every evening after fieldwork.

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Muzinga Wa Muzinga Jacques

Jacques participated in community-based surveillance of EVD under the coordination of Beni. He was as well involved in supervision, active research, investigation, data management in the Goma health zone. On his part, he attributes their success to “listening skills and always being ready to lead by example.

He also cites insecurity as the number one challenge that made the response difficult. In addition, he points out the slow community engagement in the response, and the struggle to mobilise unmotivated health human resources in carrying out activities.

To mitigate these challenges, they had to comply with and guidelines for security measures, built good working relations with community leaders, and employing advocacy.