Thanks to the support of the Irish public during our Coronavirus Appeal, we supported 50,000 people to protect themselves from coronavirus in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Coronavirus continues to spread across the DRC.
The capital Kinshasa has only 66 ventilators and there is only around one doctor per 10,000 people, compared to one doctor for every 33 people in Ireland.
A lack of awareness of coronavirus, misinformation about the virus and a lack of access to soap and running water, particularly within rural communities (only 1 in 20 people have access to soap and water in their homes), are all key barriers to preventing the spread of the virus.
With funding from the Irish Emergency Alliance, Christian Aid has helped to reduce the spread of coronavirus in South Kivu, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, by ensuring more than 50,000 people know how to keep safe from the virus.
Christian Aid has provided handwashing kits (containing a jerry can for storing water, a bucket with a tap, bars of soap and reusable face masks) to nearly 500 families who have family members particularly vulnerable to catching the virus, including those with underlying health conditions, the elderly and people living with a disability, as well as pregnant and new mothers.
Christian Aid’s two local partners (ECC-MERU and Sarcaf) trained 240 community-based health workers as well as 30 faith and community leaders to raise awareness of coronavirus in their community.
Sessions have tackled stigma towards those who have had coronavirus and the impacts that the pandemic is having on women and girls, such as a rise in sexual and domestic violence and teenage pregnancies.Information about the virus has also been broadcast twice a week on three local radio stations in Swahili, loudspeaker announcements with pre-recorded health messages were carried out in public places as well as the displaying of posters and distribution of leaflets.
To further prevent the spread of coronavirus amongst the wider community, handwashing stations with soap were also set up at 15 places of worship.
Coronavirus had affected my life very seriously.
Christine Ludunge is a 37-year-old mother of four and farmer from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She is also a community health volunteer and thanks to training provided through funds raised by the Irish Emergency Alliance coronavirus appeal is helping to ensure local people know how to keep safe from the virus and prevent its spread.
Christine said: "I am very afraid of coronavirus. It is the first time I have heard of so many people dying in white countries. We have seen how it has killed those living in good conditions."
"Coronavirus had affected my life very seriously. My kids are also not going to school and it was also forbidden for us to go to church, which was terrible. It’s the first time in my life I have seen churches closed for six months. Lockdown has also led to an increase in price at the local market."
"There are many myths about coronavirus in our village. Some say coronavirus was created by white people, others say it’s a witchcraft from China. Some also say coronavirus can be cured by traditional medicine."
It is important to make sure religious leaders are involved.
Fakage Bujiriri is a 56-year-old Pentecostal pastor living in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thanks to funds raised from the Irish Emergency Alliance coronavirus appeal he was given training on how to raise awareness of coronavirus to help prevent its spread in his local community.
Fakaje said: "We haven't had any cases in our village but coronavirus is a big concern. Personally, I am afraid because as a pastor I am in contact with people coming from different locations."
"It is important to make sure religious leaders are involved. I was interested to do the training so I could be able to improve my knowledge and pass it on to others through the church. I also make sure people keep a distance when they are in church. I wear this T-shirt which explains how to prevent catching coronavirus."
"Many people in the community have misinformation on the virus so it was important that the training talked about the origins of coronavirus and the symptoms and how to prevent the spread such as by wearing masks, handwashing and staying at home."
If this disease gets to us, it would be a disaster.
Bulonza Mugaruka is a community health worker in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Thanks to funds raised from the Irish Emergency Alliance's Coronavirus Appeal, Bulonza has been trained on how to raise awareness of coronavirus in her local community to help prevent the spread.
Bulonza said: "We are afraid of coronavirus because it is dangerous and easily contagious and the medical care at our hospital is poor. If this disease gets to us, it would be a disaster."
"We cannot say that people here have definitely had coronavirus because we do not have tests at the hospital. However, people who showed symptoms such as dry cough, high fever. We isolated these who are ill but are very afraid of them."
"Coronavirus has significantly affected our lives. The community has become very poor because of lockdown. Prices at the market have increased and it’s harder to get basics such as soap, sugar and salt."