UNICEF launches swift response as first Ebola cases and deaths confirmed in Uganda

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NEW YORK, United States of America

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched an emergency Ebola response plan in Uganda following the confirmation of the first three cases of Ebola Virus Disease in the country over the past two days.

Among the cases was a 5-year-old boy who, following a visit with his family to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), returned to Uganda on 9 June and died on Tuesday night after having been transferred to the Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit in Kasese.

The boy’s grandmother also died from the virus in Kasese district on Wednesday, where almost 400,000 children live.

UNICEF’s shift to its response phase in Uganda follows months of preparedness and prevention efforts as Ebola cases increased in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

“As our thoughts are with this young boy’s family, this is a tragic reminder that even one case of Ebola is one too many,” said UNICEF Representative in Uganda, Dr. Doreen Mulenga. “We must do everything possible to stop this outbreak in its tracks and prevent other needless deaths. UNICEF is intensifying its efforts to do so and minimize this outbreak’s potentially devastating impact on children and communities at-large in Uganda.”

Over the past several months, UNICEF has supported the Government of Uganda implement extensive programmes to make sure communities in numerous districts in western Uganda bordering the DRC are prepared for a potential outbreak.

UNICEF support includes:

Awareness is the best way to prevent the spread of this virus

• Nearly 350,000 household visits to provide targeted, culturally appropriate information around Ebola prevention and timely care-seeking;

• Over 14,000 community group meetings at schools, churches, mosques, market places, taxi, boda-boda and bus stops as well as at funeral gatherings, to discuss Ebola prevention and timely care-seeking, which have reached around 2.4 million people;

• Providing water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to more than 500 health facilities, over 1,000 schools, and 60 border points;

• Building capacity for infection prevention and control in health facilities through water, sanitation and hygiene interventions and on-the-job orientation and mentoring of health facility staff on effective prevention;

• Training nearly 1,500 Uganda Red Cross volunteers and para-social workers to support affected populations deal with Ebola-related stress.

Mrs. Mulenga added that awareness is the best way to prevent the spread of this virus. Strategically communicating the correct knowledge and best practices to affected communities is critical to doing so which, among other key interventions.

“UNICEF will provide its full support to moving forward,” she affirms.

UNICEF requires $3.9 million (14.6 billion UGX) to support the Government of Uganda’s Ebola response with intensive Risk Communication and Social Mobilization, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, Infant and Young Child Feeding, and Psycho-Social support interventions to children and their families.