Rwanda and DR Congo business communities, especially those involved in cross-border trade with each other have been urged to integrate Ebola prevention mechanisms in their daily business.
Trade between the two countries, mostly via land borders has been reported to increase.
Central Bank figures show that Rwanda exported goods worth $456.8 million in 2018 to DR Congo against imports worth $11.2 million.
The President of Joint Action Development Forum (JADF) in Rubavu District, Clement Mwongereza has urged business people to embrace Ebola prevention mechanisms while crossing the border to DRC where Ebola cases have been reported.
At least 15 districts in Rwanda have been identified as at risk as they neighbor the country.
Ebola infection cases in the DRC have reached over 2,000 by 30 August 2019.
The epidemic outbreak affected movement of businesses crossing Rwanda-DRC border when Ebola cases were recorded in Goma town but trade resumed thanks to joint prevention measures by government of Rwanda and DRC.
“Business people crossing the border should always put into practice hygiene habits whenever they come from Rwanda to DRC or from DRC to Rwanda,” said Mwongereza.
Mwongereza was speaking in a campaign against Ebola last week by Rubavu District.
As part of the rapid hygiene and sanitation response mechanism, businesses are expected to observe preventive measures since Ebola outbreak would hinder cross border businesses.
“Some goods we import from Congo are available in Rwanda while others must be imported. Businesses from DRC also need to import goods from Rwanda. That is why we are in joint operation to prevent Ebola spreading by enabling those that cross the border every day stay safe,” he said.
“Normality has since resume in regard to the movement of people and goods facilitated by mechanisms such as the setup of washing hand and test facilities,” Mwongereza said.
At least 576 hygiene facilities to curb Ebola have been set up.
Projects Administrator for Salvation Army, Francois Nsengimana, said that preventing Ebola should primarily focus on businesses that are involved in cross border trade.
“We urge them to prevent Ebola from spreading. It is simply done through hygiene and sanitation habits,” he said.
Hygiene facilities were also distributed in public places such as restaurants, public buildings with aim to increase handwashing.
Asinatha Uwineza, a businesswoman who exports engine lubricants and oil from Ricinus Plant said that after Ebola epidemic outbreak in Congo, she has been considering expanding her market within the country.
“When you want to cross the border, you get tested and if they detect fever symptoms, they thoroughly scrutinize you. We have also to wash hands to avoid spread through direct contact but its best to avoid any body contact,” she said.
“I used to export 20 litres of lubricants per week, but since the outbreak, I am not traveling as much and have been seeking to expand to other areas within Rwanda country,” said Uwineza.
Another business trader, Issa Mwiseneza, who is involved in trade logistics facilitating importers and exporters at the border said: “While some people overlook the measures to prevent Ebola, in our business, we have since taken to use gloves and disinfectant since we meet many people every day.”
He added that washing hands facilities such as buckets and soaps are provided at the business places.
The World Health Organization (WHO) assessment report indicates financial requirement for the national preparedness plan is $14.6 million for Ebola preparedness in Rwanda between July and December 2019.
However, the report says this plan did not include the cost of implementing the road map for cross border collaboration between Rwanda and DRC that was developed after the launch of the plan.
The report indicates that since Rwanda shares a border with North Kivu and South Kivu provinces, the risk of ‘importation’ of the Ebola virus from the DRC to Rwanda remains high and is related to “free movement of people and goods across the borders.”
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.