Wednesday July 17, 2019

Ebola Treatment Center in Congo Resumes Operations after Attack

Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they seek to contain the Ebola outbreak, which has become the most severe in Congo's history

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FILE - Burned structures are seen after attackers set fire to an Ebola treatment center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres in the district of Katwa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Feb. 25, 2019. VOA

An Ebola treatment center located at the epicenter of the current outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo has resumed operations after it was attacked last month, the country’s health ministry said Saturday.

The center run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in the district of Katwa was set on fire Feb. 24 by unknown attackers, forcing staff to evacuate patients.

It reopened Saturday, the ministry said in a statement. “For now it is managed by the ministry in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF,” it said, referring to the U.N. children’s fund.

Aid workers have faced mistrust in some areas as they seek to contain the Ebola outbreak, which has become the most severe in Congo’s history. The WHO has said the distrust is fueled by false rumors about treatments and preference for traditional medicine.

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The International Rescue Committee (IRC), an aid group, cautioned that case numbers were on the rise. Pixabay

Another MSF center in Butembo was also attacked in late February but reopened a week later.

ALSO READ: Congo’s Escalating Ebola Epidemic Exceeds 1,000 Cases Making it World’s Second-Worst Outbreak

MSF has pulled out from the area since the two attacks and has not said when it might resume medical activities.

The current Ebola epidemic, first declared last August, is believed to have killed at least 561 people so far and infected over 300 more. (VOA)

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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)