Saturday December 14, 2019

Ebola Outbreak in Congo “Worsening”, Over 1,000 Dead: IFRC

IFRC said Saturday that in the past week, 23 cases were reported in one day, a record number since the start of the outbreak in 2018

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Medical staff and an Ebola survivor treat Ebola patient Ibrahim Mupalalo inside the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at The Alliance for International Medical Action Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, March 31, 2019. VOA

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says the outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is “worsening” and has killed more than 1,000 people.

IFRC said Saturday that in the past week, 23 cases were reported in one day, a record number since the start of the outbreak in 2018. The DRC health ministry said Friday the Ebola death toll has risen to 1,008.

Violence helps cases spike

Violence has complicated efforts to contain the second most deadly Ebola virus outbreak in history, as the number of new cases increases each time treatment and prevention work is disrupted.

ebola outbreak
Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization, attends a news conference on the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the United Nations in Geneva, May 3, 2019. VOA

Many people are afraid to go to Ebola treatment centers because of the violence. They may instead choose to stay home where they run the risk of infecting their caretakers and neighbors.

“We are at a critical juncture where we need to step up our support to communities that are facing greater risk of infection, yet Ebola responders face massive security challenges and a lack of resources for the response,” said Nicole Fassina, IFRC Ebola Virus Disease Coordinator. “An under-resourced operation creates a very real risk of an international spread of Ebola,” she added.

ALSO READ: Congo Lists Record of 27 New Ebola Cases in One Day, Raising the Number to 126

“We are dealing with a difficult and volatile situation,” said Michael Ryan, the World Health Organization’s executive director of emergencies program. “We are anticipating a scenario of continued, intense transmission.”

Insecurity has become a “major impediment,” Ryan said. The most deadly Ebola outbreak occurred in West Africa in 2014. More than 11,000 people had been killed by 2016. (VOA)

Next Story

Congo: Volatile Security Situation Stymies Efforts to End Ebola

The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

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Congo, Security, Ebola
Patients waiting for prescriptions to be filled by the hospital pharmacy sit underneath a sign warning about the symptoms of Ebola, at Kibogora district hospital, near Lake Kivu and close to the border with Congo, in western Rwanda, Nov. 4, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization says that dangers posed by armed groups in two eastern Democratic Republic of Congo provinces are impeding progress in the battle to stop the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.  Latest reports put the number of confirmed Ebola cases at 3,287, including 2,193 deaths.

International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. The World Health Organization says the number of Ebola cases has decreased and stabilized over the past few weeks.

While that is encouraging, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier says “we are not out of the woods yet.”

“The risk of re-introduction of Ebola into former hotspots remains high and is…contingent on the level of access and security in these communities,” Lindmeier siad. “So, the outbreak has been and is occurring in an extremely complex environment, marked by poor infrastructure, political instability, as you heard, community mistrust of national authorities and outsiders and ongoing conflict involving scores of armed…militia groups.”

Congo, Security, Ebola
International health workers have achieved a lot since the Ebola epidemic in eastern Congo was declared in August 2018. Pixabay

Despite a recent decrease in the number of security incidents, attacks on health care workers and facilities remain unacceptably high.  From January to October, the WHO has documented more than 300 attacks, causing five deaths and 70 injuries of health care workers and patients.

And, last week, a health care worker was killed in his home and his wife critically injured.

The DRC has always been an area of high mobility. The armed conflict in the region has caused hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.   But people move around for other reasons as well. Lindmeier tells VOA among those on the move are infected people who could spread the virus.

“Because they were moving, we cannot be too optimistic about ending this soon,” Lindmeier siad. “As I said in the beginning, the weekly number of cases have stabilized over the past few weeks, but we are not, definitely not out of the woods yet and should not cry victory…before we are at the end of this.”

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The WHO notes Ebola hotspots have shifted from urban areas to more rural, hard-to-reach communities.  It says that, plus the extremely volatile security situation, creates additional challenges in hunting down the virus. (VOA)