On 8 May 2018, an Ebola epidemic was declared by the Minister of Health in Bikoro, a territory located at the heart of Equateur Province. To date, approximately 23 cases have been recorded in Bikoro, of which 18 resulted in the death of the patient. More than 250 people have been identified as having come into contact with them (directly or indirectly) and are under observation in Bikoro.
My name is Christophe Yoka Nkumu. I have been supervisor of the Young Reporter in Bikoro for three years. I have always sought to lead and protect children. I do not understand how anyone can abandon a child and disregard their rights. Leading the Young Reporters in Bikoro enables me to understand the problems faced by children in my community and to do something to improve their situation.
When I heard the Minister of Health’s declaration on the radio, I said to myself that no child should die from this illness, we must act quickly! Straight away I gathered together the Young Reporters to go to the Central Office of the Health District to meet with the District’s Head Physician. It was essential that the Young Reporters be briefed in the first few days so that they could mobilize without delay. Some children were a little reluctant… they knew nothing about Ebola, but after some explanation, fear gave way to motivation.
From one child to another
Raising awareness in schools is absolutely essential for combating the spread of the Ebola virus. The Young Reporters set up hand-washing stations and explained to the children the good practices that they should incorporate into their daily routines. In just a few days, eight Young Reporters led awareness raising sessions with 2000 students in schools in the city of Bikoro! What’s more, when one child speaks to another, we can be sure that the message will be understood and easily taken on board.
Children are discriminated against by other children at the school. I recall the example of one 12-year-old boy whose father was being treated at the Ebola Treatment Centre (ETC). Bikoro is a small city, so when the school’s management learnt that this boy’s father was in the ETC, they decided that the boy would no longer be allowed to attend school. For more than two weeks, this fourth-year student had to stay at home. The Young Reporters then advocated for this discrimination against the boy to end and for him to be allowed to return to the classroom. All is well now for this boy. He is back at school and his father is out of the ETC.
For the moment, the awareness raising activities are only being run in primary schools, but I think that we should extend them to all schools. Ebola does not stop at the sixth year of primary school!
How can we raise awareness on a large scale?
In addition to awareness raising activities in schools, we can also publicize our messages on a larger scale. Unfortunately, unlike in other districts, Bikoro does not have a community radio station through which to communicate good practices. That would be too easy. From one single location, we would be able to reach the most remote population without having to go there. As it is, how can we possibly cross hundreds of kilometres so that the Young Reporters can share their messages?
A community radio station would also enable us to publicize the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and raise people’s awareness of the waterborne diseases that ravage our territory. We could easily talk about all this on the radio and reach populations that would ordinarily be inaccessible.
One thing which we had not considered: since the declaration of the Ebola epidemic in Bikoro, dozens and dozens of humanitarian workers have arrived on site. The result is that now we have difficulty accessing the internet… We would like to tell the outside world about the situation we face in Bikoro, but how can we do that if we cannot get online?
Despite the difficulties, the Young Reporters are determined to raise the awareness of Bikoro’s population about the Ebola virus and to show the world what is happening here!
UNICEF’s response to the Ebola epidemic
Children continue to be at risk and are affected by the Ebola epidemic that is currently occurring in the DRC, which makes it essential that their health and well-being be prioritised in the response. UNICEF focuses on community-based communication to protect populations from the disease, delivering water, hygiene and sanitation in order to prevent the propagation of the disease, and providing psychosocial support to affected persons and their families.
UNICEF is appealing for USD 11.5 million to respond to the Ebola outbreak in DRC. The total UNICEF requirement of is currently funded up to USD 8.7 million thanks to the World Bank Pandemic Emergency Facility, USAID, CERF, the Mercury Fund, CIDA, GAVI and the national committees for UNICEF.
Christophe Yoka Nkumu Daddy
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