More than 1,500 people have died out of 2,200 confirmed cases of Ebola infection since August 2018 in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The most affected area is that of the diocese of Butembo-Beni.
The Congolese authorities, in cooperation with international agencies, have started vaccination and assistance programs for infected people. The diocese of Butembo-Beni is also involved in this struggle through Caritas, among other things with social and psychological assistance and food distribution programs.
“Thanks to a partnership with the World Food Program (WFP), we are distributing food to the families of the infected and to patients admitted to health centers. The distribution of food makes it possible to limit the movement of people looking for food, reducing the number of people exposed to infection, says Fr. Valerian Katsinge, at the head of Caritas Butembo-Beni.
This distribution of food goes hand in hand with psychological counseling to help those affected by the trauma and stigma caused by being infected with Ebola or having a person affected by the virus in their family. It is a door-to-door operation throughout the region, to gain the trust of the population.
At the beginning of the infection, the response was scarce, health centers offered precarious care and politicians gave false information about the disease. Factors that had made the population reluctant and suspicious, so much so that some health teams were victims of deadly attacks. Even a priest from Caritas had been beaten by a group of strangers.
This is the tenth time that an Ebola outbreak has occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which this time has also affected Uganda, where some cases of contamination have been recorded.