In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams are responding to the new challenges presented by Covid-19 while addressing other urgent and ongoing health needs. There have been over 2,304 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, with 66 deaths, as reported by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The MSF Medical Data Supervisor in South Kivu, David Walubila Mwinyi, noted that many people in the country are sceptical about the measures to curb the spread of the virus. He said, ‘One of my main worries when it comes to a pandemic of such proportions hitting DRC is misinformation or lack of information. Far too often, people lack reliable sources of information, such as from recognised medical experts who are working on this new virus or from the Ministry of Health. Instead, they get their news from unchecked and often untrustworthy sources through social media, WhatsApp especially. These sources, in most cases, spread rumours rather than truths. Without clear official communications, it’s hard for anyone, even me, to discern the truth’.
Mwiniyi also noted that it was difficult to explain to communities that had behaved in a certain way for generations to change their customs to avoid negative health consequences. The introduction of measures like social distancing was very difficult to not only explain but also to implement. For people who were accustomed to shaking hands when they meet, especially with the elders, to not do so could be seen as a sign of disrespect, something against tradition, and that could cause trouble, especially in rural communities.
He concluded, ‘We need to meet people’s needs by continuing to provide general healthcare across the country, [earning] their trust, and [working] together towards the end of the outbreak. We must include the community every step of the way, by not only listening to them but also by employing as many local staff as possible to ensure that we actively contribute to the overall wellbeing and prosperity of the entire community’.
Source: Doctors Without Borders
Photo source: Ron Cogswell