A healthcare worker from the World Health Organisation prepares to give an Ebola vaccination in Mangina, Democratic Republic of Congo. File photo by AP/Al-hadji Kudra Maliro.

DURBAN -  The Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) was worsening as trust in the response effort faltered, said the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

On Tuesday, 18 new Ebola cases were confirmed - the highest single day figure in the now eight month-long outbreak, said IFRC in a press statement issued on Thursday. 

DRC's health ministry also reported that 10 died people from Ebola on Tuesday, including eight who died in their communities having not sought treatment and support.

“This is a very distressing development,” said Emanuele Capobianco, IFRC’s director of health and care. 

“The bottom line is that Ebola is now spreading faster, and many people are no longer seeking care. It is clear that some vulnerable communities do not trust Ebola responders.”

Redoubling efforts to engage with the communities was critical, according to Capobianco.

“Trust can be built by going community to community, working with local leaders and villagers, listening to their concerns with empathy, and incorporating their feedback and preferences into how we work,” he said.

In-depth community engagement was central to the Red Cross operation in North Kivu and Ituri provinces in eastern DRC, where more than 700 Red Cross volunteers from Ebola-affected communities were at work, according to the statement. 

Volunteers had reached more than 1 million people with locally adapted information and collected more than 130,000 “pieces” of community feedback.

“Our research and experience show that when in-depth community engagement takes place, acceptance of outside assistance improves significantly,” said Capobianco.

Intense community outreach and engagement in and around the city of Butembo had a direct and significant impact on the willingness of communities to welcome, and in some cases, request Red Cross "safe and dignified burial teams", said the statement. 

The safe burial of people who have died of Ebola is a critical intervention in preventing disease spread.  

"The efforts of the Red Cross and other responders are also hampered by considerable funding shortfalls. Last month, the [IFRC] and the International Committee of the Red Cross launched a revised emergency appeal for 31.5 million Swiss francs to support response activities in DR Congo as well as preparedness activities in neighbouring countries. So far, only 11.1 million Swiss francs have been received," said the statement. 

African News Agency (ANA)