Ebola is ravaging the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and amid this health crisis, the survivors are living to tell their stories to the world. One such story is that of Maurice Kakule Mutsunga who survived an Ebola attack.
His survival story has now empowered him to dispel misinformation about the disease in the DRC. There are many beliefs and unfounded notions about the diseases, such as the belief that it cannot be cured under any circumstance. This is the sort of misinformation about Ebola that Kakule is actively dispelling.
Kakule got the disease after he had treated a women with it in July 2018. The woman was feverish and fatigued, and had blood dripping from her nose. She later on died, but then that is when Kakule got the disease. At that time the government had declared an outbreak of the virus in the country. He survived this ordeal.
His survival mirrors the narratives of the few who survive Ebola – only 620 of the more than 2,200 people who have contracted the virus have been cured. They are protected from reinfection.
They now contribute positively to the fight against Ebola in the DRC by taking care of the children afflicted by the diseases, and also transporting the sick to medical facilities. There is another important thing they are doing – fighting misinformation about the disease.
Many people in the DRC get to the hospital when the diseases is at a very advanced stage. The point of no return. As a result, many people die. This has led people to think that the disease is totally incurable, which is wrong.
This was especially rife in the eastern region of the DRC, where Kakule is based. There had been no Ebola reports before the outbreak, so this was new to them. Survivors are now dispelling the rumours that it is the virus that kills the people, and not the facilities.
Even when Kakule got the virus, doctors who treated him in Beni were unaware of Ebola symptoms, such that at first they thought it was a case of ingesting poison (because of the fever, diarrohea and vomitting).
Some people in the DRC had developed the idea that the existence of Ebola and the medical facilities was part of a malicious scheme meant to decimate them all. But this can be attributed to the presence of incessant violence and conflict in the North Kivu province.
In fighting the disease, Kakule formed the North Kivu and Ituri chapter of the National Association of Ebola Survivors in October 2018, and membership now stands at 500. These survivors console the children and adults who are sick, frightened or isolated from human contact. This is greatly helpful for the children, as the children were the biggest challenge when Ebola gripped West Africa.
Members of this group formed by Kakule have started operating an informal ambulance service using motorcycles, which are the area’s main mode of transportation. This way, patients can be ferried to hospital without getting much attention to their conditions.
The most empowering part of this is how survivors are now at the forefront of fighting Ebola in the DRC. By surviving the disease, other survivors are inspired to care for the sick.