19 November 2018

Congo-Kinshasa: Now Ebola Fighters Face Attacks While Battling Deadly Disease

Photo: Kevin Jordan/UN Photo
MONUSCO peacekeepers in Beni territory, North Kivu, Democratic Repbulic of the Congo.

Cape Town — Security concerns remain a major obstacle in ending the Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo, that has so far claimed more than 200 lives. On November 16, more than a dozen WHO staff had to be evacuated to Goma for psychological care after their residence was hit by a shell, which did not explode.

The attack sparked a temporary suspension of vaccination and the operations centre, but teams follow up on some alerts of potential cases in communities, and to meet contacts and ensure their welfare. The treatment centers, which are run by WHO partners, remain operational.

Just a day before the WHO attack, the UN announced that seven of its peacekeepers were killed and 10 wounded while on an operation with the Congolese military against a rebel group in Beni.

The Ebola outbreak was made official in August, when the country's ministry of Health announced that the North Kivu Province was affected. The World Health Organisation continues to work with the government to tackle the new outbreak. The exact numbers of people being treated fluctuates daily, while suspected cases are systematically investigated to confirm or exclude the Ebola virus disease.

The Uganda health ministry has categorised five districts that neighbour DR Congo - - Ntoroko, Kasese, Bundibugyo, Kanungu and Hoima - as very high-risk areas.

"The Health ministry has started screening at Entebbe International Airport for all flights that come in from DR Congo and South Sudan," said Dr Henry Mwebesa, the ministry's director of General health services on the sidelines of the 3rd Grand Uganda Medical Association Conference in Kampala on Friday.

He also warned that Kampala and Wakiso districts are high-risk because of flights.

The latest Ebola scare was reported on Thursday in the western district of Hoima which also shares a border with DR Congo. Simon Chadia, a 31-year-old boda boda driver, died after exhibiting symptoms similar to those of Ebola.

Several experts, including J. Stephen Morrison - co-author of a recent position paper published by his think tank, sees a "terrible scenario" playing out for the Congo. Morrison, who directs the Global Health Policy Center at the Washington D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, is quoted by NPR as saying attacks in the conflict-wracked region will escalate, and health workers will be targeted.

Total cases: 366
- Confirmed cases: 319
- Probable cases: 47

Deaths: 214
- Confirmed: 167
- Probable: 47

(information courtesy of WHO, as at November 17, 2018)

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