Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)
Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

Experts from DRC, the surrounding region, the Global North, and international agencies were convened by SSHAP to appraise the current situation in the DRC and consider insights from social science research to inform context-sensitive risk communication and community engagement (RCCE) and wider operational responses.

Despite estimates that less than 10% of suspected cases in DRC are being laboratory screened, the country is currently reporting the highest number of people affected by mpox (formerly known as monkeypox) in sub-Saharan Africa. It is notable that clade 1 of mpox is linked to this outbreak, which results in more severe disease and a higher fatality rate. While early cases of mpox were reported to be in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM), the disease is now being detected more widely in DRC. The majority of those affected are children (up to 70% by some estimates), which is a cause for concern.

The apparent heterogeneous picture of mpox across DRC is shaped in part by social, economic and political factors. These include circumstances linked to mining livelihoods and challenges facing the local health system and humanitarian operations. These realities raise significant questions for the mpox response, which were explored during the roundtable:

  • What is (un)known about the current mpox outbreak(s) in DRC and what differences are evident across regions and populations?
  • What contextual social, political and livelihood factors are relevant to inform understandings of transmission and vulnerabilities in different regions and population groups?
  • Are there dynamics related to stigma and/or discrimination that are relevant for RCCE, detection and care provision?
  • What factors could be affecting care-seeking in different contexts and what are the implications for detection and provision of care in biomedical facilities, when appropriate and available?
  • What are the challenges for rollout of ring vaccination in different regions? What learning is there from new/experimental vaccines such as for Ebola in DRC?
  • What are considerations for cross-border spread and for preparedness in neighbouring countries?

You can read the report of the roundtable discussion here.