Monday October 21, 2019

Ebola Epidemic in DRC could Spread to International Borders Due to Insecurity, Underfunding

It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further

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FILE - A medical assistant checks the temperature of people from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at the Ebola screening point bordering with DRC in Mpondwe, western Uganda, on Dec. 12, 2018. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could spread to urban areas and across international borders because of heightened insecurity and a serious shortage of money. DR Congo Ministry of Health reports 1,739 cases, including 1,147 deaths, which indicates a 66 percent fatality rate.

The Ebola epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces started 40 weeks ago on August 1. What is particularly frightening about the latest situation report is that 20 percent of overall cases have occurred in just the last three weeks.

The International Red Cross Federation finds this sharp upsurge alarming. It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further.

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An Ebola health worker is seen at a treatment center in Beni, Eastern Congo, April, 16, 2019. The World Health Organization is warning it may not be possible to contain Ebola to the two affected provinces in eastern Congo if violent attacks on health teams continue. VOA

The IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, Emanuele Capobianco, says the Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding. He says the security situation is complex and will require a range of responses. But he notes the funding situation could be fixed now.

“At the moment, the financial situation for many of the humanitarian organizations is quite dire,” he said. “There is a real need to step up the response. Otherwise, activities will have to be scaled down and the impact on the future of the epidemic will be extremely serious.”

People who get infected with the deadly virus have a very high risk of dying. Studies from the 2014 historic outbreak in West Africa show that between 60 and 80 percent cases were linked to Ebola-infected bodies at traditional burials. Capobianco says Red Cross efforts to provide communities with safe and dignified burials are meeting with increasing success.

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FILE PHOTO: Health workers carry a newly admitted confirmed Ebola patient into a treatment center in Butembo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, March 28, 2019. VOA

“Up to now, there have been up to 5,000 safe and dignified burials conducted and they are conducted for, as I mentioned before, the people who died either in the community or the Ebola treatment centers of Ebola confirmed,” he said. Also, for people who may be just suspected of Ebola. And, that is why the number of 5,000 is so high. That is a critical part of the work that we have done and which, at the moment is threatened by the lack of funding.”

ALSO READ: Ebola may Continue to Affect other Provinces if Attacks Don’t Stop, Warns WHO

Capobianco says the Red Cross has received less than half of the $30 million it needs to carry out its Ebola-control activities across affected parts of DR Congo, as well as preparedness efforts in neighboring Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.

He warns Red Cross operations will be forced to close within the next two weeks without additional urgent investment. (VOA)

Next Story

World’s Largest Measles Outbreak Kills More than 4,000 People in Congo this Year

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018

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FILE - A child is immunized against measles at a clinic in eastern Congo, Nov. 13, 2008. VOA

More than 4,000 people have died in Congo this year in the world’s largest measles outbreak, the United Nations children’s agency said Wednesday.

The Central African nation is also battling an Ebola outbreak that has killed about half that number since August 2018.

Since January, more than 200,000 cases of measles have been reported across Congo, UNICEF said. More than 140,000 involve children under 5, who also make up nearly 90 percent of deaths.

“We’re facing this alarming situation because millions of Congolese children miss out on routine immunization and lack access to health care when they fall sick,” said the UNICEF country representative, Edouard Beigbeder. “On top of that, a weak health system, insecurity, community mistrust of vaccines and vaccinators, and logistical challenges all contribute to a huge number of unvaccinated children at risk of contracting the disease.”

World, Measles, Congo
FILE – Health workers wearing protective gear check on a patient isolated in a plastic cube at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo, July 13, 2019. VOA

Health officials are facing many of the same challenges in the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo that has killed more than 2,000 people. Multiple armed groups have been fighting over the mineral-rich land for decades and threatening residents. The insecurity has led to mistrust of authorities, including health workers.

UNICEF said health workers were rushing additional medical kits to help care for more than 110,000 people infected with the measles, a highly contagious and potentially deadly virus. More than 1.4 million children have been vaccinated this year.

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The U.N. agency said Congo’s government will launch a vaccination campaign at the end of October to make sure children in every province are vaccinated. (VOA)