Brandt School Universität Erfurt

Guest Lecture: Ebola Crisis’ Management in DRC

Monday Banga

Last Wednesday 3rd July the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy hosted a guest lecture by Monday Banga on the topic Ebola Crisis' Management in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Monday Banga has large experience working as advisor in International Organisations. He is currently part of the response team working on the ongoing Ebola virus disease outbreak in eastern DRC, he is as a Field Coordinator for the IOM.

During the guest lecture, he related how the current Ebola outbreak appeared last April 2018, but the early cases were only identified after the epidemic already spread in the country. Several weeks happened before they realised it was a problem, because the symptoms of the Ebola are similar to other usual sickness of the area. Many infected people did not visit the nearest health-care centre, because they thought it was a normal disease. It was also difficult to realise this was happening, because it was the first epidemic happening in an open area. An interesting fact is that 57% of the patients with Ebola are female. Mostly, because women are involved in traditional ceremonies to take care and bury the bodies. Most of the time they did not take proper care of themselves while being in contact with the bodies and Ebola is transmitted through body fluids. Thus, the women involved in these ceremonies were easily infected. Many medical and security personnel involved in the treatment of Ebola have either been infected with Ebola or assassinated by armed groups.

Mr. Banga related how international and national organisations are now struggling to get rid of the Ebola. Many Response operations have been suspended several times because of attacks from armed groups. Those groups attacked health care centres and till nowadays there have been approximately 22 attacks per month (A total of 174 attacks since April 2018). The cars and  the health-centres with international organisations logotypes, such as Medicine sans frontiers, have suffered damages, the solution from these organisations have been to make the cars look like local vehicles. After these attacks some threatening notes are left warning the local and international workers that they have to leave the areas where Ebola appear or their life will be damaged.

Mr. Banga’s guest lecture was insightful to notice the issues that humanitarian workers go through while working in crisis areas. Also the disease has contributed to the internal armed conflict and to the displacement of people due to the disease itself and the attacks from armed groups. The armed groups have referred that in comparison with other sickness as Malaria and Typhoid more international aid have been provided to solve the issue of Ebola, because of Europe’s interest to avoid the disease to reach the European continent. And that is one of their reasons why they attack the international centres.

Mr. Banga referred that the international aid provided to reduce the Ebola impact, has had economic impact in some regions. For instance, local elites make money out of this disease, because they can control the restaurants and hotels offering the service to aid workers or medical personnel who relocated in the areas where Ebola spread. The regions have also experienced inflation, because the medical personal and the aid workers bring more money from their tuition received due to their jobs in an Ebola area. In some cases the salaries of these personnel has increased up to 300% more.

Social media as Facebook and Whatsapp have played a big role in the Ebola outbreak. Rumours regarding Ebola and foreigners are shared through these platforms and people tend to believe almost all information that is shared through them. Preventing local people to trust those workers interested in Ebola to disappear.

Some questions raised after the guest lecture seek to know more about:

  1. Alternatives solutions created to solve the armed groups attacks.Mr. Banga referred that a humanitarian worker made an arrangement with local armed groups, to involve them and try to see whether the arrangements will decrease the attacks. Nevertheless, this kind of solution worked for 3-4 weeks, but afterwards the government accused the worker doing this of being traitor. He/she was fired and then the next coordinator continued working with the local armed groups, but he/she did not inform the government about this, because it is important to be connected to these groups and gather information otherwise the coordinator (and other people working in the Ebola’s crisis management are/) is putting him/herself at risk and he/she might be attacked.
  2. How are they dealing with the burial rituals that are part of the culture, but put people in danger of infection?

Mr. Banga related that they have tried to integrate women as much as they can by giving these women the right advises and the proper training on protection and equipment. The organisations have provided them with personal protection equipment such as: the right kind of gloves, which will allow women to protect themselves and stay save. They call it: "Dignified and securitised burial".

After the guest lecture a Barbecue organised by the African Association in Germany composed by African students of the University of Erfurt and the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy, served as a networking platform to give students the opportunity to interact with Mr. Monday Banga in a more casual setting.