Award-winner Dr. Jean-Paul Uvoyo Ulangi, Country Medical Coordinator DR Congo and Regional Health Advisor, Malteser International, reports in an interview on the award-winning project “Community communication as key for preparedness, prevention and response ─ A comprehensive approach toward epidemics in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo”.
Dear Dr. Jean-Paul Uvoyo Ulangi, our sincere congratulations on receiving the Else Kröner Fresenius Award for Development Cooperation in Medicine 2021. Would you please give us a look into the award-winning project and introduce us to the project’s objectives?
Thank you very much. The project deals with taking the necessary precautions to be optimally prepared in the event of an outbreak of epidemics. In the provinces of Ituri and Haut-Uélé we bank on an efficient, community-based approach. The targeted objective is to reduce the frequency of illnesses along with mortality in the event of epidemics, and to curtail the spreading of the pathogens involved.
The project builds upon five pillars: risk communication and inclusion of the population; clinical and community-based epidemiological monitoring toward the early detection, prevention and combating of epidemics; case management involving schooled and coached personnel who have carried out simulations on a regular basis; and the sector-transcending coordination of activities prior to, during and after the epidemic using a strategic materials & inventory management.
What kinds of concrete measures have you employed to minimize the emergence and spread of epidemics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
At first we analyzed the risks relating to probability of occurrence, impacts and triggering causes. An emergency plan was subsequently developed, a strategic supply of materials was created, and the coached crisis response teams carried out simulations.
In addition, we applied the “people first impact method” (P-FIM), which gives the people a voice. In doing so, existing skills and abilities within the community were made use of in order to clarify and educate about the risks. People from the midst of their community informed their fellow human beings about paths of infection and how you can effectively prevent yourself from becoming infected. This community-based approach helped to gain the population’s trust and dispel rumors.
Using community-supported monitoring, outbreaks of diseases were able to be detected at an early stage. At the same time, due to strategic stockpiling we were in a position to respond rapidly and contain epidemics.
What are the plans for your work in the future?
In the future we want to strengthen the community-based prevention and combating of epidemics through the “One Health” approach: Epidemics ought to be combated wherever human beings, animals and the environment come into contact with each other. A sector-transcending work group is going to concern itself with strengthening the concept. Its members will include veterinarians, healthcare personnel, ecologists, environmentalists, WASH specialists, agronomists, teaching staff and representatives of communities and civil society.
What are you going to use the money from the award for?
The money from the award is designated for the victims of epidemics and supposed to be used to reinforce the resiliency of the healthcare system in preparing for and responding to epidemics: through the “One Health” approach, through strategic stocks of materials toward improving response capability, by strengthening the capacities of healthcare personnel in the area of monitoring, and by involving the population in the prevention and response to zoonotic diseases such as the plague, rabies or brucellosis.