Sun, May 05, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Ebola deaths in DR Congo hit 1,000

‘MAJOR IMPEDIMENT’:The WHO health emergencies head said every time control is regained over the outbreak, a major security event hampers the efforts of medical clinics

AP, KINSHASA

More than 1,000 people since August have died from Ebola in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), Congolese Minister of Public Health Oly Ilunga Kalenga said on Friday as hostility toward health workers continues to hamper efforts to contain the second-deadliest outbreak of the virus.

Four deaths in the outbreak’s epicenter of Katwa helped push the death toll to 1,008 people, while two more deaths were reported in the city of Butembo, Kalenga said.

The outbreak declared almost nine months ago had already caused the most deaths behind the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa’s Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia that killed more than 11,000 people.

A volatile security situation and deep community mistrust have hampered efforts to control the epidemic in the DR Congo. Ebola treatment centers have come under repeated attack, leaving government health officials to staff clinics in the hotspots of Butembo and Katwa.

International aid organizations stopped their work in the two communities because of the violence.

Insecurity has become a “major impediment” to controlling the Ebola outbreak, WHO Health Emergencies Programme Executive Director Michael Ryan told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland, earlier on Friday.

He said that 119 attacks have been recorded since January, 42 of them directed at health facilities, while 85 health workers have been wounded or killed.

Dozens of rebel groups operate in the region and political rivalries in part drive’s community rejection of health personnel.

“Every time we have managed to regain control over the virus and contain its spread, we have suffered major, major security events,” Ryan said.

Many people fear going to Ebola treatment centers, choosing instead to stay at home, and risk transmitting the disease from the virus to caretakers and neighbors.

Area residents were blocked from taking part in a January presidential election, with the DR Congo government citing safety concerns. Some wonder why money is poured into fighting Ebola when many more people die each year of malaria and other preventable diseases.

Insecurity also has prevented vaccination teams from getting to some areas, further limiting the health response.

Still, more than 109,000 people have received an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine.

Authorities are looking at introducing another one, Ryan said, adding that more help from the DR Congo and elsewhere is needed to close an “urgent, critical gap” of about US$54 million in containment funding.

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