Dikembe Mutombo Helps US Officials to Fight Ebola Outbreak

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 24, 2019

Dikembe Mutombo, NBA Global Ambassador, speaks during the opening ceremony of Basketball without Borders Africa, the NBA and FIBA's global basketball development and community outreach program, at the American International School in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2018. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
Themba Hadebe/Associated Press

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has partnered with Dikembe Mutombo to record radio and television ads to help stop the spread of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

U.S. officials are attempting to get stations to play the ads in Congo, where around 1,500 people have died from Ebola since August. Mutombo's videos caution citizens to take precautions to help quell the spread of the disease.

Mutombo told Mike Stobbe of the Associated Press:

"Someone who doesn't look like you, who doesn't think like you, who is not from your village, who is from other places, just walk to your village with a nice beautiful white truck and telling you ... 'Inject this chemical into your body to protect you from this deadly virus.' That's where there's a fight. This is where we're having a conflict.

"How do you [build that] trust? That's the big problem we're having in the Congo. I believe as a son of Congo, I think my voice can be heard. Because everyone in the country knows my commitment to the humanity and the health."

Efforts to stop the outbreak have been met with resistance by rebel attacks and those within Congo communities, according to Stobbe. The U.S. State Department has ordered CDC specialists to stay out of outbreak areas because of safety concerns. A World Health Organization doctor was killed in Congo this April.

Mistrustย of outsiders from Congo citizens has also been a cause of the continued outbreak. Ebola is transmitted through bodily fluids and causes a fever that is often fatal.

The CDC hopes Mutombo's presence in the community and goodwill he's built up with citizens will help build trust to slow the spread of the disease.