Dr. Hwang in DRC
 
The Democratic Republic of Congo is currently dealing with three epidemics at once: cholera, measles and yellow fever. The Democratic Republic of Congo Red Cross has been a key partner of their government in the fight against these recurrent epidemics, with hundreds of volunteers raising community-level awareness about preventative measures. 
 
According to the World Health Organization, Cholera fever alone has resulted in over 18,000 cases and over 500 deaths since the beginning of the 2016. The measles epidemic has produced over 8,283 cases, and caused 131 deaths, as of early September. Meanwhile yellow fever has killed 16 people and 75 confirmed cases have been reported.
 
The situation is of particular concern in Democratic Republic of Congo's high activity border zones, and in its densely populated capital, Kinshasa.
 
An emergency appeal was recently launched by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) which aims to provide assistance to more than 12 million people in Democratic Republic of Congo by focusing on emergency health, water, sanitation, and hygiene promotion.
 
Dr. Christine Hwang of Toronto has just returned from working with the Democratic Republic of Congo Red Cross in Kinshasa as part of the IFRC appeal, with the support of Global Affairs Canada, where she helped develop strategies on optimal solutions to reduce the number of infections.
 
Dr. Hwang says that the approach of having Democratic Republic of Congo Red Cross volunteers sharing information one-on-one is proving to be very effective. Teams have visited more than 400,000 houses to date, providing important messages and information on the diseases and steps to avoid them.
 
Dr. Hwang notes that speaking directly to people like this is helping to spread the message.
"Vaccination rates have increased, and there’s evidence of people’s improved approaches to hygiene and sanitation,” says Dr. Hwang. "I think we can get on top of these deadly outbreaks, but we cannot let our guard down," she adds, emphasizing the need to ensure that people stay vigilant at all times at community level. Prevention, she says, must continue at the same time as experts respond to the outbreak in other ways, such as vaccination and elimination of mosquito breeding grounds.
 
Dr. Hwang is seen above planning workshops for community volunteers with Congolese colleagues, including  project leader Dr. Jacques Katshitshi (seated), Dr. Jean Faustin Balelia (R) head of the health department of the DRC national society, and  Dr. Alain-Roger Kouassi (L), from Côte d’Ivoire, a member from an IFRC regional disaster response team.