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 Table of Contents  
COMMENTARY
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 9  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 144-146

COVID-19's impact and consequence in children and parental sensitivities: A report from the Democratic Republic of the Congo


1 Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care, IFH Level III Hospital, MONUSCO, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
2 Department of Psychiatry, IFH Level III Hospital, MONUSCO, Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo

Date of Submission13-Apr-2021
Date of Decision12-May-2021
Date of Acceptance14-Jun-2021
Date of Web Publication25-Sep-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Shibu Sasidharan
Department of Anaesthesia and Critical Care, Level III UN Hospital, Goma
Democratic Republic of the Congo
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/mjhs.mjhs_28_21

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How to cite this article:
Sasidharan S, Dhillon HS. COVID-19's impact and consequence in children and parental sensitivities: A report from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. MRIMS J Health Sci 2021;9:144-6

How to cite this URL:
Sasidharan S, Dhillon HS. COVID-19's impact and consequence in children and parental sensitivities: A report from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. MRIMS J Health Sci [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Oct 25];9:144-6. Available from: http://www.mrimsjournal.com/text.asp?2021/9/3/144/326733



In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), as on March 05, 2021, the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases is 26,340, with the deaths totaling to 711.[1] In a population of 91,494,641, the actual figures are far from what it actually seems.[1] What is unique to this situation is how the percentage of children infected with coronavirus has been <3% of the total cases, with zero fatality under the age of 10 years.[2] In comparison to this, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports. that children in the same under-19 age group accounted for between 0.00% and 0.23% of all COVID-19-related deaths in the US as of November 2020, with 17 states reporting no deaths in children.

Many factors and remedial measures adopted by the government authorities in DRC in association with international health bodies have contributed to containing the infection to a certain extent, especially in children:[3]

  1. Through the support of international organizations such as the UNICEF and implementation of effective responses such as risk communication and community engagement (RCCE), DRC has been successful in containing the spread to an extend. RCCE comprises of:


    1. COVID-19 hotline: The hotline provides appropriate information, feeds the alerts mechanism, and creates the link to the services (medical assistance)
    2. U-Report platform, where through its SMS center, 5923 people received an answer to their questions. Questions were related to statistics and how the disease is growing in DRC (affected areas, number of confirmed cases, number of recoveries, etc). Through its automated bot, people asked and received appropriate information on COVID-19 statistics, symptoms, spread mechanism, how to protect yourself and how to protect others, and myths on COVID-19
    3. Mass media communication: Twenty-five media professionals were trained on prevention measures and warning signs of COVID-19. Eighty-four radio stations and thirty TV channels continue to broadcast messages on COVID-19 with UNICEF's support in the provinces affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.


  2. Protection of civilian population: Provided awareness-raising training to security forces and continued to campaign for the safety and security of medical workers and facilities and to an end to attacks
  3. Protection of people deprived of their liberty: Requested that the authorities reduce overcrowding in prisons and release vulnerable detainees who are serving a short sentence and are at greater risk from COVID-19, i.e. those who are ill or old
  4. Health and food aid: Provided gloves, surgical masks, bars of soap, handwashing kits, chlorine, protective clothing, infrared thermometers, and medicines. Provided emergency food aid
  5. Support for health care: Helped general hospitals set up its COVID-19 triage and screening facility and set up a new treatment unit, providing technical equipment and essential medicines, personal protective equipment, an electric generator, oxygen cylinders, tents, and beds. Provided psychosocial counseling to victims of sexual violence and infection protection and control kits. Trained staff on isolating suspected cases and carried out awareness-raising sessions
  6. Water and sanitation: Repaired boreholes and water pumps in partnership with the National Rural Hydraulic Office
  7. Partnership with the red cross society of the DRC: Helped all branches of the DRC Red Cross in its prevention and community engagement efforts. Donated materials and equipment and provided funding and technical advice. Carried out awareness-raising sessions on hygiene measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19 for children in Goma.


These measures have helped contain the infection to a great extent. However, why are the statistics unreported? In a country ravaged by war, poverty, and infectious diseases such as measles, ebola, and HIV, the number on the chart is just the tip of the iceberg, and hence, we still have a long way to go.[2]

According to the latest report by the WHO, DRC has recorded the ninth-highest number in Africa. The number of COVID-19 tests done in DRC by May 18, 2020 was 4493, but the number of tests required to make up 1% of population was 895,614.[3] Hence, the number of patients that actually undergo testing and evaluation is greatly compromised. This is both because of the lack of availability and lack of awareness.[4] Many Congolese believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is a “white's disease,” and thus, the brown skin gives them immunity. Beliefs like these have also influenced how parents manage their children with possible infection with the virus.[5]

At the outset of the pandemic, the Internet was replete with information about the pandemic. Some were legitimately backed by evidence, and many others not so much. Alarming news about the impact of the virus on children has had disproportionate perceptions on the thoughts and behavior of parents. The fear of falling victim to the virus in the hospital during a consultation visit and the added fear of a possible hospitalization has made parents shift their attitude toward medical help. Parents prefer telemedical consult or more disturbingly turn to self-medicating their children, over checking with a doctor in the hospital. Parents should realize that this can have ramifications on the health with much-added risks due to COVID-19.

As the pandemic ravages across the globe, many children are experiencing increased irritability, worry, sadness, loneliness, acting out behaviors, family conflicts, sleep difficulties, and changes in eating habits. For patients with chronic conditions, this may impact their medical regimen. Almost all doctors offer telemedicine visits through phone or computer, so do not hesitate to seek support.

What parents can/should do:

  1. Teach and reinforce everyday preventive actions


    1. Wash hands
    2. Wear a mask
    3. Avoid close contact
    4. Cover coughs and sneezes


  2. Bring your child for their health-care visits: Routine well-child visits and vaccine visits are essential, even during the COVID-19 pandemic[6]


    1. Prepare for your child's health-care visits (do not forget to notify your child's health-care provider before your visit if you or your child have any symptoms of COVID-19).


  3. Teleconsult a doctor and take his advice if you are not going to a hospital/clinic: Internet-based health-care services have been shown to be effective in children, adolescents, and adults for anxiety, depression, adjustment disorders, and even posttraumatic stress disorder[7],[8]
  4. Help your child stay active


    1. Regular physical activity can improve your child's physical and mental health
    2. Ensure your child stays active every day while taking everyday preventive actions
    3. Set a positive example by leading an active lifestyle yourself and making physical activity a part of your family's daily routine.


  5. Help your child stay socially connected


    1. Reach out to friends and family through phone or video chats
    2. Write cards or letters to family members who they may not be able to visit.


  6. Help your child cope with stress
  7. Consider taking extra precautions: Please consider taking extra precautions if your child has a disability or a developmental or behavioral disorder.


The current figures available online of the number of cases in adults and children in the DRC are masked by the problems unique to this country. This disparity can be ironed out with the help of international organizations helping to deliver health care as well as the funding DRC receives from many countries to combat terror and promote health of women and children. Hence, in conclusion, if your child is sick, take adequate precautions and go/tele-consult to a doctor.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
DR Congo Coronavirus: 26,340 Cases and 711 Deaths-Worldometer. Available from: https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/democratic-republic-of-the-congo/. [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 05].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Sasidharan S, Dhillon HS. Ebola, COVID-19 and Africa: What we expected and what we got. Dev World Bioeth 2021;21:51-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
UNICEF DRC COVID-19 Situation Report #18-26 November 2020-22 January 2021-Democratic Republic of the Congo | ReliefWeb. Available from: https://reliefweb.int/report/democratic-republic-congo/unicef-drc-covid-19-situation-report-18-26-november-2020-22-january. [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 05].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Sasidharan S, Harpreet Singh D, Vijay S, Manalikuzhiyil B. COVID-19: Pan (info) demic. Turk J Anaesthesiol Reanim 2020;48:438-42.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
WHO | Ebola virus disease– Democratic Republic of the Congo. WHO. 2020. Available from: http://www.who.int/csr/don/14-May-2020-ebola-drc/en/. [Last accessed on 2021 Mar 08].  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.
Parenting Children with Chronic Disease during COVID. Available from: https://www.apa.org/topics/covid-19/parenting-chronic-disease. [Last acessed on 2021 Mar 08].  Back to cited text no. 6
    
7.
Varker T, Brand RM, Ward J, Terhaag S, Phelps A. Efficacy of synchronous telepsychology interventions for people with anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and adjustment disorder: A rapid evidence assessment. Psychol Serv 2019;16:621-35.  Back to cited text no. 7
    
8.
Dhillon HS, Sasidharan S. Telemental health–Is it “Virtually” perfect. Archives of Medicine and Health Sciences.2021;9:175.  Back to cited text no. 8
    




 

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