The Scaling Up Ebola Response through Community Engagement (SUERCE) project is working to lower the morbidity and mortality associated with the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu and Ituri provinces of eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The SUERCE project, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, does this through safe and dignified burial and community engagement practices.
In eastern DRC, ongoing conflict coupled with community distrust of the government and international actors has forced response teams to operate in a fragile and unstable environment. When combined with the highly infectious nature of the disease, this situation has created a unique and challenging environment for responders. Thus, SUERCE works to increase community acceptance for a wide range of activities and to lower exposure to Ebola that can occur during the mourning process.
FHI 360 works with community leaders and traditional leadership structures to build acceptance from the ground up. This involves focused small-group meetings, larger community gatherings and radio programs to spread messaging. To ensure that local communities are accepting of sensitive response activities, such as conducting burials, project staff engage the community leaders before establishing safe and dignified burial teams. FHI 360 then works with the country’s civil protection staff to support, train and operate safe and dignified burial teams across affected areas, performing a critical role in curbing Ebola infections.
Additionally, the project conducts activities in water, sanitation and hygiene and economic recovery and market systems in Ebola-affected communities.