Ebola-virus emergency in DRC almost ‘out of control’, says CAFOD

14 June 2019

So far, 1300 people have died from the outbreak, which is the second deadliest in history

REUTERS

Mwamini Kahindo, a survivor of the virus, holds an infant outside the Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, DRC

Mwamini Kahindo, a survivor of the virus, holds an infant outside the Ebola treatment centre in Butembo, DRC

THE outbreak of the Ebola virus in the Democratic Republic of Congo is close to becoming “out of control”, an aid agency in the country has warned, as the number of confirmed cases rises beyond 2000.

So far, 1300 people have died from the outbreak, which is the second deadliest in history. There are concerns at the speed with which the infection has spread in recent weeks: while it took 224 days to reach 1000 cases, it took only 71 days to double to 2000.

CAFOD, through its partner Caritas, is working in local communities to try and overcome the distrust shown to medics and agencies who are trying to tackle the outbreak through vaccination and advice on how the disease is contracted.

“This is the first time we have seen this level of mistrust in the DRC,” Dr Emmanuel Mbuna Badjonga said. He is based at the heart of the affected area in North Kivu province, eastern DRC.

Medical staff have been attacked in some communities, owing to levels of mistrust of government officials and aid workers.

CAFOD’s programme manager based in Goma, the capital of North Kivu province, Katy Nembe Katonda, said that mistrust of outside agencies was hampering efforts to control the spread of the disease, but Caritas, which works through local churches, was better able to get the message into communities.

“We have seen the rejection of humanitarian workers who are seen as outsiders, and who don’t understand the local situation. From church agencies, the message is better accepted.

“While Ebola has been kept out of the main towns in the area, it is rampant in remote communities, where there is a low level of understanding about the disease. Some communities are resisting all intervention, and even deny the existence of Ebola. Others think this is something brought in by outsiders.”

“We need to do a lot of work to strengthen this operation, as there is a real danger that the situation escalates and gets out of control. The world needs to sit up and focus on what is happening, and pay the DRC more attention.”

The head of emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO), Michael Ryan, also said that violence in the region was preventing disease detection, and that he feared that up to 25 per cent of cases could be going undetected.

The current outbreak was declared on 1 August 2018. Only the 2013-2016 outbreak of the virus in west Africa has been deadlier: more than 11,000 people died out of the 28,000 who were infected.

On Tuesday, the WHO and the Ugandan Ministry of Health confirmed the first case of the Ebola virus in Uganda, stemming from the current outbreak in the neighbouring DRC. This is the first time that the virus has been identified outside DRC during the recent outbreak.

A five-year-old Congolese boy travelled across the Ugandan border on Sunday. While seeking medical care at Kagando Hospital, health workers identified the Ebola virus as a possible cause of his illness.

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