GENEVA - The U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) says it is increasing Ebola prevention efforts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. The agency says community resistance to efforts to contain Ebola is growing and must be fought to stop the spread of the fatal disease.
Since the disease outbreak was declared on August 1 in Congo's North Kivu and Ituri provinces, UNICEF has been working with communities to inform them about how the virus spreads and what measures to take to protect themselves from being infected.
The U.N. agency is working with community and religious leaders in the city of Beni, where health workers are facing hostility and resistance. UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said the spread of false rumors and fear about Ebola are endangering efforts to contain the virus.
"We are working with anthropologists, particularly in this Beni neighborhood, who ensure that the response is sensitive to cultural beliefs and practices, particularly around caring for sick and diseased individuals, and addressing population concerns about secure and dignified burials," he said.
Boulierac said UNICEF is expanding its community outreach program to support thousands of people at risk in the city of Butembo. Two new Ebola cases recently were confirmed in this important commercial center with nearly one million inhabitants.
He said UNICEF is deploying a team of 11 specialists in community communication, education and psycho-social assistance. The agency also will provide water, sanitation and hygiene to help contain the disease and avoid further spread of the epidemic.
In its latest assessment, the World Health Organization counted 197 confirmed and probable cases, including 92 deaths.
The outbreak in the DRC is the 10th since Ebola was first identified in 1976.