Oxfam has started to provide desperately needed food to thousands of people caught up in the Ebola outbreak in Equateur province.
Oxfam is distributing rice, beans and flour, to about 4,525 people. It has already started in Mbandaka - the provincial capital - and plans to extend to rural communities. This is in addition providing clean water and working with communities to ensure they know how to protect themselves against the virus and prevent its spread.
The outbreak has reduced trade between rural areas such as Bikoro and Iboko, the places worst affected, and Mbandaka. Many people depend on this trade for food and other essentials. Households that have been in contact with a sick person have to rely on assistance because they are asked to stay indoors and avoid going out for three weeks, making it impossible to find food.
Jose Barahona, the Oxfam Country Director for Democratic Republic of Congo, said: “Getting food to families who have been in contact with sick people is vital to allow them to eat while protecting others from the disease. Failing to provide food means they need to get out to the market, potentially infecting other people. In the past weeks the increase of cases has slowed down thanks to joint efforts by the Government and aid agencies. But there are well over 50 cases of Ebola and that's far too many.
"We are putting everything we learnt in the Ebola outbreak in West African into fighting Ebola here. Working with communities, listening to their fears and superstitions and how to overcome them is vital. In West Africa the epidemic had a massive impact on the economy and people's ability to make a living. Because of restrictions of movement many people didn't cultivate their fields. Prices for food increased drastically.
"We need to prepare a post-Ebola response, including helping people earn a living and providing clean water and sanitation. Oxfam’s work should not stop when the outbreak has ended.
"But Ebola is only one of the numerous and serious humanitarian crises to which millions of people in DR Congo are exposed. Donors, who have been quick to respond the Ebola outbreak so far, should make good on their pledges to provide much needed assistance in Ituri, the Kivus, Tanganyika and the Kasais. Several million Congolese who are caught up in humanitarian crises are without aid of any kind of aid."
Notes to Editors:
Oxfam is providing door-to-door information to the most vulnerable people, working with communities and carrying out mass awareness activities including film screenings and working with local community radio stations.
Oxfam is also installing chlorinated water points in hospitals, health centres, schools and ports, and helping to disinfect houses in which Ebola cases have been detected. It also provides disinfection kits and hygiene kits to communities.