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20.09.2019 Congo

DR Congo Ebola survivors play crucial role helping victims of virus

By John WESSELS à BENI, Samir TOUNSI à KINSHASA
Ebola survivor Claude Mabowa, 21, lost his mother, a brother and sister to Ebola, according to NGO Alima.  By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)
SEP 20, 2019 CONGO
Ebola survivor Claude Mabowa, 21, lost his mother, a brother and sister to Ebola, according to NGO Alima. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)

As health agencies battle to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in eastern DR Congo, some survivors of the disease are playing a crucial role in aiding victims of the worst outbreak in the country's history.

More than 2,100 people have died from Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo since the haemorrhagic fever resurfaced in August 2018.

Containment efforts have been hindered by the conflict in the country's east, as well as attacks on health workers tackling Ebola in a population where mistrust of outsiders and superstition is rife.

Maurice, 35, and his wife Esperance both contract Ebola. He now heads the Ebola survivors association.  By JOHN WESSELS (AFP) Maurice, 35, and his wife Esperance both contract Ebola. He now heads the Ebola survivors association. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)

That's where survivors come in.

A 35-year-old doctor who identified himself as Maurice, contracted the virus while caring for a patient in July 2018 before the outbreak was officially confirmed.

He then passed the disease to his wife, Esperance.

Both survived and Maurice is now the head of the Ebola survivors association for the response to the outbreak.

Survivors of Ebola become immune to the disease, allowing them to interact with sufferers without protective clothing.

Viannay Kambale, 31, survived the Ebola virus and now works with patients at an Ebola treatment centre as he is immune to the disease.  By JOHN WESSELS (AFP) Viannay Kambale, 31, survived the Ebola virus and now works with patients at an Ebola treatment centre as he is immune to the disease. By JOHN WESSELS (AFP)

Ebola is contagious and causes patients to often die from dehydration and multiple organ failure.

Viannay Kambale, 31, survived the virus and now works with patients at an Ebola treatment centre, as he has immunity.

Another survivor, Claude Mabowa, lost his mother, a brother and sister to Ebola, according to NGO Alima.

"There are people who approach me, and others are moving away," the 21-year-old said, about peoples' reaction to him in public.

"It bothered me a lot," he told a local Kinshasa radio station.

UN chief Antonio Guterres visited Beni in the country's Ebola-plagued east earlier this month and urged people who might be infected to visit their nearest health centre for a checkup.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited an Ebola treatment centre in Mangina, North Kivu province, earlier this month.  By ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP/File) UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres visited an Ebola treatment centre in Mangina, North Kivu province, earlier this month. By ALEXIS HUGUET (AFP/File)

"It is worth coming. There are people who might think: 'Well, I'm going to die, why should I go? No, it's not true. Those who come here can be cured. We must transmit this message to everybody. Don't hide your symptoms. Come," he said after meeting Ebola survivors.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak is the second-worst one in history after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014 and 2016.

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