Fighting Ebola in DRC through communication on the vaccination

Ebola vaccination

Dr Hilaire Manzibe, is among the first to have been vaccinated in the Province of Equateur (Photo: UNICEF DRC Naftalin)

Dr Hilaire Manzibe, head physician at the Mbandaka Hospital, is among the first to have been vaccinated in the Ebola crisis in the Province of Equateur in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). “Through vaccination we can protect ourselves and the others against the disease”, he explains. “Vaccinating is protecting. Vaccinating is loving.”

Vaccination started in the city of Mbandaka just a few days after the new Ebola outbreak was announced, and has now been extended to Bikoro and Iboko, two other affected health zones. Dr Manzibe is among the more than 1,100 people that benefited from the vaccine.

It’s the first time that the vaccination against Ebola is used in the DRC so community communication is a crucial part of campaign. UNICEF is the lead organization for the community communication on vaccination. The community communication strategy put in place on vaccination aims particularly to provide pre-counseling with eligible health workers, people that have been in contact with infected people and contacts of contacts, as well as information on the vaccine and its administration.

UNICEF works closely with local communities in informing people about the vaccination and about the people that are targeted in the vaccination. Local communities are informed that the vaccine is provided for free to health workers, contacts and contacts-of-contacts as they are the most vulnerable, and that vaccine is not mandatory, but given by consent.

Several communication specialists of UNICEF are specifically dedicated to community communication on vaccination, and work in close interaction with the DRC National Immunization Programme, the World Health Organization and other partners on social engagement to support ring vaccination.

Ebola vaccination in Mbandaka

Jean Claude Nzengu, talks with members of an Ebola vaccination team as they prepare to administer the vaccine in an Ebola-affected community in Mbandaka (Photo: UNICEF DRC Naftalin)

Jean-Claude Nzengu is one of the many communication specialists that UNICEF have sent to the affected areas: “One on the key objectives of community communication is to successfully mobilize the population for vaccination. So, we go to the households to inform people about the vaccination that stops the transmission of the disease. We speak about the advantage of the vaccination and guide eligible people to the vaccination sites.”

The messages on vaccination are new and complex. It takes some time for the entire communities to capture the full content of the vaccination messages. But the resistance felt in the beginning in some communities, is slowly fading away.

The communication on vaccination is part of the overall community communication that UNICEF is running with its partners to sensitize the population about Ebola and the way to protect oneself against the disease and to avoid the spread of it. Since the beginning of the outbreak, UNICEF and its partners have sensitized more than 300,000 people in the affected areas about Ebola through door-to-door communication, mobilization of community leaders, churches and mass media and distribution of leaflets.

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.

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Yves Willemot

Yves Willemot est le chef de l’Équipe InfoCom de l’UNICEF RDC. Plus que tout, ce qui est important pour lui c'est d'être "tous ensemble pour les enfants".

Yves Willemot is Head of the UNICEF DRC InfoCom Team. More than anything, he believes that the most important is to "be together for the children".

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