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DR CONGO: Training to save lives threatened by Ebola or Coronavirus

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, ALIMA is strengthening the capacity of multidisciplinary teams for the prevention and management of outbreaks, such as Coronavirus or Ebola, including quality patient care, in alignment with local needs.

The diagnosis: stillborn. The baby apparently did not survive the delivery. Smiles quickly fade. “This child still has a chance to survive,” says Dr. Hans-Jörg Lang, a pediatrician with ALIMA, The Alliance for International Medical Action, as he hands out papers and pens to the 30 participants in the training course on the care of Ebola patients in Beni, North Kivu. “We must try everything. It’s up to you,” he emphasizes. “You have two hours to think about the protocol you are going to follow to save this child.”

Training to strengthen the response to Ebola

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© Anne Boher / ALIMA

Hands-on training is an integral part of the sessions offered by ALIMA to Ministry of Health workers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): doctors, nurses, hygienists and midwives come to refresh their knowledge and acquire new skills, in order to reach standards of care that they will apply in public health structures – many of which are supported by ALIMA as part of the response to Ebola outbreaks, but also COVID-19. Over the course of three days, health workers will learn how to identify the symptoms of the disease, as well as medical treatments, biosecurity measures, and water, sanitation and hygiene measures, which they can then apply to other outbreaks or severe infections.

“It’s a very impressive reaction, it’s perfect! Now you have no excuse: you can resuscitate babies in health centers,” says Dr. Lang, warmly congratulating one of the trainees, Dr. Merveil, a general practitioner who says this training is ‘very important.’ He explains: “These subjects concern us; we need to deepen our knowledge. We never stop learning because some of us have never had to give emergency care during our career.”

In groups of 30 to 50 people, in the cities of Goma, Katwa and Beni, these health professionals also familiarize themselves with an ethical and very human understanding of emergency medicine. The dignity of the patient and the community’s trust in the care provided are considered paramount to their recovery and continuity of care.

New training sessions to fight against Coronavirus

These training sessions also help prepare for emerging diseases and teach lessons about the medical response to outbreaks. Thanks to this experience and to partnerships with the different training partners, including the World Health Organization, the Ministry of Health and the different sectors involved in emergency medical response, training sessions on the management of COVID-19 were quickly launched for 387 health agents on the frontlines in the fight against the pandemic in DRC. The goal: “The transfer of skills essential to identify and manage outbreaks,” says Dr. Lang.

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© Philine Moucheront / ALIMA

Building the capacity of health workers in the country can improve their ability to treat many different pathologies, particularly those affecting pregnant and breastfeeding women and children under 5 years of age. By improving access to primary health care, the chances of detecting a patient presenting symptoms of Ebola, COVID-19 or measles at an earlier stage, increases, as does public confidence in medical facilities.

Courage, empathy and care to build tomorrow’s health system

“The commitment of the health staff is remarkable,” says Dr. Lang. “Most of them are highly motivated and courageous. They have contributed greatly to the medical response and have gained experience. These trainings help them to consolidate their knowledge and build the public health system of tomorrow.”

Empathy and attention to the patient are the two words that Dr. Joel, a local general practitioner, who works in ALIMA’s Integrated Treatment Center in Sayo, will remember from Beni’s training on the Ebola outbreak. “We are there for the patients and I like working with ALIMA because of that,” he says. “We have a strong partnership, where trust is important. This is not an attempt to take control, but a positive, voluntary attitude to help the most vulnerable.”


*Cover photo: © Philine Moucheront / ALIMA

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