DR Congo Declares End To Ebola Epidemic In East

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 09, 2019 Health workers are seen inside the ‘red zone’ of an Ebola treatment centre, which was attacked in the early hours of the morning in Butembo. – Democratic Republic of Congo’s government on June 25, 2020 officially declared an end to an epidemic of Ebola that broke out in the east of the troubled country in August 2018 and went on to claim 2,277 lives. JOHN WESSELS / AFP.

 

DR Congo on Thursday officially declared an end to an Ebola epidemic that broke out in the east of the troubled country two years ago and went on to claim over 2,000 lives.

The outbreak was “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the 60-year history of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Health Minister Eteni Longondo said.

It has only been surpassed by the 2013-16 Ebola epidemic in West Africa that killed 11,300 people.

On June 1, as the epidemic in the east waned, a new outbreak — the DRC’s 11th since Ebola was identified in 1976 — was announced in the country’s northwest.

For an outbreak to be officially over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days, which is double the incubation period of the deadly haemorrhagic microbe.

The eastern outbreak was just three days from reaching the finishing line in April when a new case was reported. Further cases meant that the clock was restarted on May 14.

READ ALSO: UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

The World Health Organization (WHO) reacted with joy to Thursday’s announcement from the biggest country in sub-Saharan Africa.

“#Ebola outbreak in #DRC is OVER! WHO congratulates all those involved in this tough and often dangerous work to end the almost 2-year long outbreak,” it said on Twitter.

The DRC is also struggling with the new coronavirus, with 6,411 cases including 142 fatalities, and measles, which has killed more than 6,000 people since early 2019 .

– ‘Chronic insecurity’ –

The epidemic in the east broke out in August 2018 and killed a total of 2,227 people.

It was declared by the WHO in July 2019 to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern — a move that steps up international support — given the epicentre’s close proximity to neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda.

The worst-hit area was North Kivu, a province battered by militia killings and ethnic violence.

“Chronic insecurity” helped make the epidemic “highly complex,” Longondo said.

Eleven workers and patients were killed, including a Cameroonian doctor, the UN said.

Two experimental vaccines were brought in to help roll back the disease.

More than 320,000 people received the jab, and the success means that “people are demanding to have the vaccine. It makes the campaign easier,” said Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, in charge of the anti-Ebola fight.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

It has a natural reservoir in nature, which is believed to be a species of bat.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

The northwest’s outbreak, about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) away from the one in the east, is focused on Mbandaka, a transport hub on the Congo River in the province of Equateur.

It has claimed 13 lives out of 24 cases, according to the WHO.

Equateur was previously hit by Ebola between May and July 2018. Thirty-three people died.

– Lessons from outbreak –

Ebola experts said the experience of the eastern outbreak would be vital for informing further action against Ebola.

One problem was an influx of wealth among health workers and their escorts in the armed forces — guards were given per-diem expenses of $300-400 per month in a country where per-income capita is around $500 a year.

The river of money created envy that militia groups readily exploited, they said.

“Questionable practices in the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo, including payments to security forces, renting vehicles at inflated prices, and job kickback schemes, may have jeopardised humanitarian operations and put lives at risk,” a specialised news site, The New Humanitarian, said in an investigation published on June 18.

An AFP reporter found that a lucrative business had developed in job appointments, with middle men creaming off commission, and some women said they had been pressed to provide sexual services in exchange for work.

AFP

EU Launches Anti-Virus Air Bridge For DR Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

The European Union will on Sunday launch a humanitarian air bridge to support the fight against the coronavirus in the Democratic Republic of Congo, officials said Friday.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian, his Belgian counterpart Philippe Goffin and European Commissioner for crisis management Janez Lenarcic will travel to Kinshasa on the flight, from Brussels.

On Monday, they will meet President Felix Tshisekedi in the capital, before travelling to the eastern city of Goma, in the troubled region on the border with Rwanda.

More flights will carry at least 40 tonnes of aid such as water purifiers, and medical supplies. provided by the EU, governments and humanitarian agencies.

So far, Africa has been spared the worst of the pandemic, with only 4,755 deaths recorded and 170,286 cases compared to more than 180,000 deaths and two million cases in Europe.

But poorer countries like the DRC would struggle to cope if the outbreak intensifies and Brussels has set aside 3.25 billion euros ($3.67 billion) in grants and 1.4 billion euros in loans to help countries through the crisis.

DR Congo Reports Fresh Ebola Outbreak

Activists walk along the street during a COVID-19 coronavirus awareness campaign in Kinshasa on May 29, 2020. SAMIR TOUNSI / AFP
Activists walk along the street during a COVID-19 coronavirus awareness campaign in Kinshasa on May 29, 2020. SAMIR TOUNSI / AFP

 

DR Congo reported a fresh Ebola outbreak in its northwest on Monday, the latest health emergency for a country already fighting an epidemic of the deadly fever in the east as well as a surging number of coronavirus infections.

The 11th Ebola outbreak in the vast central African country’s history comes just weeks before it had hoped to declare the end of the 10th in the east.

Health Minister Eteni Longondo said that “four people have already died” from Ebola in a district of the northwestern city of Mbandaka.

“The National Institute of Biomedical Research (INRB) has confirmed to me that samples from Mbandaka tested positive for Ebola,” Longondo told a press conference on Monday.

“We will send them the vaccine and medicine very quickly,” he said, adding that he planned to visit the site of the outbreak at the end of the week.

The capital of Equateur province, Mbandaka is a transport hub on the Congo River with a population of more than a million.

Equateur province was previously hit by an Ebola outbreak between May and July 2018, in which 33 people died and 21 recovered from the disease.

“This is a province that has already experienced the disease. They know how to respond. They started the response at the local level yesterday (Sunday),” Longondo said.

The eastern epidemic

The Ebola epidemic in the country’s east has killed 2,280 people since August 2018, and officials had hoped to be able to proclaim it over on June 25.

For it to be officially over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.

The eastern epidemic was just three days away from being declared over on April 10 when a new case was reported.

Seven new cases were then recorded, including four deaths, two recoveries and one patient who fled, and the clock was restarted on May 14.

The World Health Organization also extended its Public Health Emergency of International Concern designation for the epidemic, which has mainly affected the North Kivu province.

Two experimental vaccines have been widely deployed to fight the outbreak, with more than 300,000 people vaccinated across the country.

However efforts to contain Ebola in the east have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the country’s volatile region, long riven by militia killings and ethnic violence.

The eastern Ebola outbreak is the second-worst in history, after an epidemic in 2014 killed about 11,000 people — mostly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Coronavirus, measles

The newest Ebola outbreak is the 11th in the Democratic Republic of Congo since the highly contagious haemorrhagic fever was identified in 1976 in Equateur province in the country then known as Zaire.

The virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

The country is also fighting its own surging coronavirus outbreak, recording 3,195 infections — 2,896 in the capital Kinshasa — and 72 deaths, according to official figures released Monday.

“We are in an ascending period of the curve,” Longondo said, adding that it was still too “risky” to lift measures imposed on March 20 to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Under the measures, travel is banned between Kinshasa and the rest of the country.

No coronavirus cases have been reported in Equateur province. Mbandaka is 600 kilometres (370 miles) from Kinshasa, but the two cities are connected by the Congo river, with a trip down it taking about a week.

DR Congo’s coronavirus frontman, virologist Jean-Jacques Muyembe, first identified Ebola in 1976 along with Belgian Peter Piot.

“I have devoted all my life and all my career to fighting Ebola,” Muyembe has said.

The country is also facing a measles outbreak which has killed more than 6,000 people since early last year, as well as recurring flare-ups of cholera and malaria.

14 Boys Raped By Fake Pastor In DR Congo – Hospital

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa
The Democratic Republic of the Congo, also known as DR Congo, the DRC, DROC, Congo-Kinshasa, or simply the Congo, is a country located in Central Africa

 

Fourteen boys were raped by a man posing as a pastor in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the Panzi Foundation said Tuesday. 

The Bukavu charity hospital founded by Denis Mukwege, the Nobel laureate and gynaecologist hailed for his work with rape victims, said the children were admitted last month “in a state of suffering and psychological stress”.

The 30-year-old alleged attacker was arrested in late April, civil activist Julien Namegabe told AFP.

The victims came from different families and ranged in age from eight to 15.

The suspect “bought their silence with small gifts for several weeks” according to the Panzi Foundation.

Evariste Kajibwami, a clinical psychologist who has been following the boys since their admission to the hospital, said on the foundation’s website that they “presented a mixture of sadness, fear and shame”.

The foundation said it would help the victims “until justice was done”.

Mukwege has treated thousands of women who were raped during conflicts in eastern DR Congo over the past quarter-century.

He was a joint winner of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for “efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict”.

His foundation has been involved in at least two trials before the military justice system.

In 2017, a local militia member of parliament was sentenced to life imprisonment for raping around 40 girls in Kavumu near Bukavu.

In November, a warlord was convicted of raping women and at least one girl in early 2018.

 

AFP

DR Congo Reports 41 COVID-19 Cases In Overcrowded Jail

A picture taken on April 25, 2020, shows the completely deserted Boulevard du 30-Juin in the residential commune of Gombe in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, during a COVID-19 outbreak, caused by the novel coronavirus. SAMIR TOUNSI / AFP

 

At least 41 coronavirus cases have been recorded in an overcrowded military prison outside DR Congo’s capital Kinshasa, health authorities said Friday.

Health Minister Eteni Longondo told TopCongo radio that prisoners at the Ndolo jail were still being tested but he expected the number of cases to rise.

Longondo said the current hypothesis was that “a woman who came to leave food” at the jail had transmitted the virus.

Human Rights Watch warned last month that poor conditions in overcrowded DR Congo jails such as Kinshasa’s Makala prison — filled to more than four times capacity — were a likely virus breeding ground.

The government said on April 8 that at least 1,200 prisoners had been released in order to help stop the virus spread.

To date the vast central African country, one of the world’s poorest, has reported 572 confirmed cases — almost all in Kinshasa — and 31 deaths.

Authorities confirmed 72 new cases on Thursday, all in the capital except one at Kasindi on the Ugandan border, the largest daily rise since the country’s first on March 10.

WHO Emergency Committee Meets On Ebola After New DRC Case

WHO Urges Unity After Trump Attack
A TV grab taken from a video released by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attending a virtual news briefing on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) from the WHO headquarters in Geneva on April 6, 2020. AFP

 

The WHO said its emergency committee would meet Tuesday to discuss whether the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo still constitutes an international health emergency, after fresh cases were detected.

The meeting comes a day after DR Congo had been expected to announce that the outbreak in the east of the country that began in August 2018 was over.

The epidemic has killed 2,276 people to date. For it to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.

But as the World Health Organization’s emergency committee met last Friday to determine whether its declaration of a so-called Public Health Emergency of International Concern, or PHEIC, could be lifted, a new case was reported.

“We now have three cases, two people who have died, one person who is alive,” WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters in a virtual briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.

She said that all of the contacts of those cases had been traced and vaccinated and were being followed closely.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: IMF Approves Debt Relief For 25 Poor Countries

DR Congo health authorities announced Friday that a 26-year-old man was listed as having died from the disease, and a young girl who was being treated in the same health centre passed away on Sunday.

Both died in the city of Beni, epicentre of the outbreak.

Due to the shifting situation, the WHO decided to reconvene its emergency committee to again evaluate whether or not the outbreak still constitutes an international health emergency, Harris said.

It was scheduled to announce its decision later Tuesday.

DR Congo has meanwhile started a new 42-day countdown to declare an end to its 10th epidemic of the deadly haemorrhagic fever disease.

AFP

DR Congo Hopes To Declare End To Ebola Outbreak In April

 

DR Congo health officials said Monday they were “keeping fingers crossed” to declare the end of the devastating 19-month epidemic next month.

While the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus, the last patient under treatment for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday.

If no more cases are diagnosed, the epidemic will officially end on April 12, or 42 days from the date of the last confirmed patient’s second negative test.

“Today, March 9 is the 21st day without any new confirmed case,” said Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who is in charge of the Ebola fight.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that until then, there are no incidents,” he told a news conference.

“The greatest challenge for us today is to follow up on survivors because some continue to secrete the virus in their seminal fluids,” he said, adding that they were being treated to avoid infecting their partners.

READ ALSO: Burkina Faso Attacks Kill 43

DR Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak was first identified in August 2018, and WHO declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” last July.

It has killed 2,264 people in DR Congo in the vast central African country’s 10th Ebola epidemic since 1976.

It is the second-most deadly Ebola epidemic in history after an outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

Since that time, the health authorities have gained a more powerful weapon against the disease: vaccination. Nearly 320,00 people have been vaccinated so far in DR Congo.

AFP

WHO Seeks $20m To Fight Ebola In DR Congo

World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Ibrahima-Soce Fall attends a press conference on the WHO Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 6, 2020 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Ibrahima-Soce Fall attends a press conference on the WHO Ebola operations in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on March 6, 2020 in Geneva. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

The World Health Organization said Friday it needs $20 million to fight Ebola in DR Congo, even as the end of the devastating 19-month epidemic finally seemed within grasp. 

While the world’s attention has been focused on the coronavirus, the last patient being treated for Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo was discharged on Tuesday.

If no more cases are diagnosed, the epidemic will officially end within 42 days from the date of the last confirmed patient’s second negative test.

“The end of the outbreak will be declared on April 12” barring further cases, WHO assistant director-general for emergency response Ibrahima Soce Fall told the media in Geneva on Friday.

But he issued a note of warning, saying “it is critical to maintain surveillance and rapid response capacity” in order to quickly diagnose any new cases.

“We have over 1,169 survivors. So we have an important programme to continue to provide care to survivors, but also to make sure that we don’t have any flare-ups,” he added.

“We know that the focus is more now on COVID-19, but… we still need an additional $20 million for WHO to maintain the team on the ground because Ebola is also a matter of global health security.”

DR Congo’s most recent Ebola outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and WHO declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” last July.

It has killed 2,264 people in DR Congo, the vast central African country’s tenth Ebola epidemic since 1976.

It is the second-most deadly Ebola epidemic in history, after an outbreak killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa from 2013 to 2016.

Since that time, the health authorities have gained a more powerful weapon against the disease: vaccination. Nearly 320,00 people have been vaccinated so far in DR Congo.

 

AFP

DR Congo Battles Deadly Measles Outbreak

 

As the world grapples with the spread of novel coronavirus, in remote western DR Congo, officials are fighting a deadly outbreak of measles.

More than 6,000 people have died from measles in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a year, the world’s worst outbreak and triple the toll of the country’s Ebola epidemic. It is also nearly double the 3,404 people who have died from the coronavirus so far.

Last year, more than 18 million children under the age of five were vaccinated for measles across DR Congo and around 310,000 suspected cases were reported.

The UN agency World Health Organisation had said more emergency funds were needed from donors for a six-month immunisation plan for children to help curb the epidemic.

The second stage of vaccinations just started this week. Vaccines are loaded onto motorbikes in the villages around Temba, a six-hour drive along dirt roads from the western community of Seke-Banza.

Around 73,000 children from six months to 15 years old will be vaccinated in the Kongo Central province as part of the second phase.

Efforts to halt the spread of both Ebola and measles in DR Congo are hampered by a lack of access, weak health care and unrest across the country, especially in the east.

Several hours into the remote bush by motorbike from the regional capital of Matadi in western DR Congo, measles has killed six people in Seke-Banza, a small part of this forgotten epidemic.

The latest victim was a small boy who died during the week in hospital.

“There are two categories of patients: those who are in the acute phase of measles, with respiratory signs, conjunctivitis, fevers,” says Mederic Monier with Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

“A few months later, as their immune system is weak, they can trigger other diseases like malaria so we also take care of them.”

Adolphe Kiakupuati, a hunter like most men in the region, came with his three children for a vaccination. Lack of information is a problem in this area in the middle of the forest, on the borders of the two Congos.

“During the vaccination period for the children, I was busy in the forest and I was not aware of it. But now they are on treatment,” the father said.

Logistics are a major challenge, especially trying to keep vaccines at the required temperature as they are transported.

“The big challenge is to be able to supply all of these vaccines in all of these villages, while respecting quality,” says MSF logistics manager Jean Pletinckx.

The DRC recorded more than 335,413 suspected cases and 6,362 deaths from January 1, 2019 to February 20, 2020, according to WHO statistics.

Measles has killed more than the Ebola epidemic declared on August 1, 2018 in the east of the country, which has caused 2,264 deaths.

Measles is a highly-contagious disease caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.

DR Congo Signs ‘Peace’ Deal With Armed Group In East

 

The Congolese government has signed a deal with an armed group to restore peace and security in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after decades of violence, UN officials said.

The agreement was signed in the gold-rich province of Ituri, long wracked by communal violence that has left tens of thousands dead.

The deal, signed Friday between the DRC authorities and the FRPI (Patriotic Resistance Forces in Ituri), calls for a ceasefire and integration of the militias into the regular army.

“This agreement… is tasked with ending nearly two decades of violence,” the United Nations mission in DRC, MONUSCO, said in a statement.

It is “designed to restore peace, security and stability” in southern Ituri, following “several aborted attempts,” it added.

The FRPI, which today numbers 500 fighters, has been active in the south of Ituri for two decades.

The armed group is a holdover from the communal conflict that ravaged the province between 1999 and 2003, leaving tens of thousands dead until the intervention of a French-led European force called Artemis.

A local resident hailed the peace deal, particularly for families caught in the crosshairs of conflict.

“For we women, this agreement is synonymous with hope,” Gety resident Anualite Zawadi said, according to MONUSCO.

“For nearly 20 years, women were raped. We had trouble going to work in the fields. Children rarely went to school because of the lack of security.”

The conflict has seen several high-profile FRPI players punished over the years.

Former warlord Germain Katanga was sentenced in 2014 to 12 years in prison by the International Criminal Court for complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Another militia leader, Cobra Matata, was arrested and transferred to Kinshasa in January 2015, but his trial has never started.

Several thousand FRPI fighters were demobilised and integrated into the Congolese army from 2004 until 2006, but the group started reforming at the end of 2007.

Since the end of 2017, northern Ituri has seen a resurgence in violence between local militia groups that has left at least 700 people dead.

The UN says the violence could amount to a crime against humanity.

WHO To Decide On Emergency Status Of Ebola In DR Congo

 

UN health agency experts meet on Wednesday to decide whether the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo should still be considered a global health emergency, following a sharp decline in reported cases.

The World Health Organization last July declared it a “public health emergency of international concern” — a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding.

The outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo — an area where several militia groups are operating.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday said he was “encouraged” by an improvement in the situation, with only three cases reported in the past week.

But he added: “It’s not over. Any single case could reignite the epidemic.”

For the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days — double the incubation period.

“Although the world is now focused on coronavirus, we cannot and must not forget Ebola,” Tedros said, adding that he would travel to DR Congo on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi.

The decision is ultimately up to the WHO’s Emergency Committee — a group of international experts that meets every three months once an emergency has been declared.

The designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma — the first case in a major urban hub.

More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time.

The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.

The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people — mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east.

The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DR Congo because of the insecurity.

The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which civic activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.

AFP

Twelve More Bodies Found After DR Congo Militia Massacre

 

Another 12 bodies have been discovered in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo region of Beni, two days after a militia attack left eight people dead and around 20 missing, police said on Sunday.

On Friday fighters from the Allied Democratic Forces militia slit the throats of eight people in Mangina commune, prompting hundreds of villagers to flee the area.

The attack was the latest massacre blamed on the ADF which has carried out reprisal attacks on civilians in response to a military crackdown on their fighters since October.

Eastern DR Congo has been wracked by militia violence for years, a legacy of its two Congo wars in the 1990s, but the ADF has been blamed for most of the recent attacks.

“The twelve bodies found today were victims of Friday’s ADF attack,” local Mangina police chief Major Losendjola Morisho told AFP.

He said the army were currently chasing militia fighters om Makiki village, two kilometres (1.2 miles) east of Mangina.

The Beni region is the epicentre of the ADF campaign where activists say more than 300 people have been killed since October when the army began its offensive.

On January 28, 36 civilians were killed in an attack in Oicha, also in Beni, part of the ADF’s revenge attacks on civilians.

The ADF, blamed for the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians in Beni since October 2014, began as an Islamist-rooted rebel group in Uganda that opposed President Yoweri Museveni.

It fell back into eastern DRC in 1995 during the Congo Wars and appears to have halted raids inside Uganda. Its recruits today are people of various nationalities.