March 12, 2009

DRC 2009 © Jorge Dirkx

An 8-year-old girl is examined by medical staff in an MSF isolation center in Western Kasai Province, central Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). She was brought there by her father who suspected she was a victim of an Ebola hemorrhagic fever outbreak in the area. The girl tested negative for Ebola. However, after confirming that she was malnourished, MSF staff sent her to a therapeutic feeding center. Due to the highly contagious and deadly nature of Ebola, staff must wear full protective gear in isolation centers.

MSF arrived in Western Kasai on December 23, 2008, after an outbreak of Ebola was declared. Some 48 people showed symptoms of Ebola and 14 people with suspected or confirmed cases died.

“Our work is structured around four main activities,” said MSF operations coordinator for the project, Luis Encinas. “First of all, we must isolate the patients, so they don’t infect anyone else, but also so they can receive palliative medical care. Meanwhile, others in the team go into communities to look for sufferers, and monitor people who have been in contact with infected patients. Then, there’s all the social mobilization work—in other words, raising people’s awareness of the disease, its symptoms, the modes of transmission and prevention methods. Finally, we must make sure that healthcare is free throughout the epidemic to remove the financial barrier to receiving care.”

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