The World Health Organization (WHO) chief says the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) can be brought to an end in six months, if everything goes as planned. Latest figures from the DRC Ministry of Health put the number of Ebola cases at 927, including 584 deaths.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that any of the challenges that lie ahead could undo the gains achieved so far in controlling the spread of the Ebola virus.
But he said enough progress has been made to believe the Ebola outbreak in Congo's North Kivu and Ituri provinces can be shut down in six months' time.
He said transmission of the Ebola virus has been stopped in Beni, Mangina, Komanda, and Oicha in North Kivu province.
"It has not spread to other parts of the country, and it has not spread to neighboring countries. I think anybody can agree that this is a fact and something that we can say is good news. And the second is not only that it is not spreading, it is actually contracting," Tedros said.
WHO reports the virus has been contained in 11 of the 28 communities affected by Ebola. Since January, it said the number of new cases reported every week has dropped by half from an average of 50 cases to 25.
Nevertheless, Tedros said challenges remain. He said security is the No. 1 concern, with armed groups posing a serious threat in Katwa and Butembo, the current epicenters of the disease.
Three weeks ago, treatment centers in Katwa and Butembo were attacked, and the facility in Butembo was attacked again last week while the WHO chief was visiting the region.
Tedros said another big challenge is that of gaining the trust of communities. They often are suspicious of the demands made by health workers that go against their traditional practices.
The WHO chief said six months is a feasible goal for ending the Ebola outbreak. However, he added WHO is prepared for any eventuality, and if the goal is missed, the agency will continue its work in the region for as long as it takes to end the Ebola epidemic.