Vice mayors in charge of social welfare from 13 districts across the country have received training on how to handle the threat of Ebola and make citizens aware of the virus.
Earlier, the officials convened in Western Province’s Rubavu District and received vigilance tips from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
The officials were drawn from districts that are more susceptible to the Ebola epidemic, including Nyarugenge, Gasabo, Kicukiro, Rubavu, Rutsiro, Nyamasheke, Musanze, Nyabihu, Burera, Gicumbi, Nyagatare, Karongi, and Rusizi.
They received sensitisation tips to help them inform citizens of their respective districts about how to avoid Ebola, as well as how to react if they encountered cases of the disease.
The epidemic remains a menace in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo where new cases have been taken care of for close to a year.
Bosco Gasherebuka, a Citizens Outreach Officer with WHO, said that the training is aimed at empowering the leaders so they can reach out to their citizens with necessary knowledge about Ebola prevention.
The leaders were also provided with tips on how to behave in case they encountered an Ebola case.
“The motive of the training is to see that people will be able to prevent Ebola. The vice mayors in charge of social welfare are important in this because they have to partner with their citizens to implement the measures,” he said.
Gasherebuka said that Rwanda has worked on requirements in regard to preventing the epidemic.
“The first thing is to put in place measures to inspect people coming from an Ebola zone. Another is to see that your citizens know how to behave in case the disease came into their border,” he said.
He added that not only vice-mayors received the training, but other institutions in charge of citizen sensitisation were tipped as well.
The official indicated that knowledge about the disease is crucial because in some cases the epidemic was in the past understood as witchcraft in some places where people were experiencing it for the first time.
“If it came to Rwanda, we don’t want people to be ignorant since it spreads fast and easily through contact with body fluids of the infected person,” he said.
For Marie-Grace Uwampayizina, the Vice Mayor in charge of social welfare in Rubavu District, the training about Ebola prevention is a useful one.
“For us as leaders, knowing information about how people can protect themselves against the disease helps us to get a way of talking to our citizens about prevention,” she said.
She also said that she now knows how to react in case of an Ebola outbreak in her region.
Her district has introduced measures to deal with the epidemic, including medics at the border with the DRC checking up people to find out if they don’t have Ebola signs before they cross into the country.
There has also been sensitisation to the people in Rubavu during Tuesday citizens’ meetings, as well as on the last Saturdays of the month after Umuganda community work.
“What is more important is sensitising people,” Uwampayizina said.
Among other measures to fight Ebola, the Ministry of Health launched a campaign in April to vaccinate 3000 health and frontline health workers against the Ebola virus in some fifteen districts across the country.