Friday December 13, 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)

Next Story

WHO: Ebola Epidemic in Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern

WHO said that since the Ebola epidemic was declared last Aug. 1, there have been more than 2,500 cases, including nearly 1,670 deaths

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A Congolese health worker administers ebola vaccine to a child at the Himbi Health Center in Goma, July 17, 2019. VOA

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces a public health emergency of international concern.

The declaration by an emergency committee at WHO headquarters in Geneva elevated the disease and the efforts needed to combat it to a significantly higher level of concern. Nevertheless, committee chairman Robert Steffen cautioned against overreacting to the meaning of the decision.

“This is still a regional emergency and by no way a global threat,” he said. “And, why this change of opinion … there is concern about the spread of Ebola from Goma, a gateway, even though so far no cases were newly infected in the city.”

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FILE – Mwamini Kahindo, an Ebola survivor working as a caregiver to babies who are confirmed Ebola cases, holds an infant outside the red zone at the Ebola treatment center in Butembo, DRC, March 25, 2019. VOA

On Sunday, the first case of Ebola was discovered in Goma, a city of 2 million.  The pastor infected with the virus later died.  Steffen said the recurrence of intense transmission in Beni, an earlier epicenter of the disease, and the recent killings of two Ebola health workers were among other factors that fed into the committee’s decision.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that the risk that the disease could spread in the DRC was very high but said that the risk of spread outside the region remained low.

No curbs on travel, trade advised

Although the committee declared Ebola to be a global health emergency, Tedros said WHO did not recommend any restrictions on travel or trade.

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A man receives a vaccine against Ebola from a nurse outside the Afia Himbi Health Center on July 15, 2019 in Goma. VOA

Such restrictions “can actually hamper the fight,” he said. “Closing borders could have disastrous consequences for the lives and livelihoods of the people who cross the border every day for trade, education or to visit relatives.”

ALSO READ: Children Under Five at Higher Risk of Ebola Outbreak; Represent One-third of Current Total Cases

WHO said that since the Ebola epidemic was declared last Aug. 1, there have been more than 2,500 cases, including nearly 1,670 deaths. This is the 10th outbreak of the disease over the last four decades in the DRC. It is the second-largest outbreak after the 2014 historic epidemic in West Africa that killed more than 11,300 people.

WHO said insecurity due to conflict in North Kivu and Ituri provinces and tepid international financial support were the main impediments to stopping the Ebola virus. (VOA)