Ebola Cases Rise In New DR Congo Outbreak

(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.  (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)



The Ebola outbreak in the DR Congo’s northwest is growing, according to health officials, sounding the alarm weeks after the country officially declared an end to a separate Ebola epidemic which claimed over 2,000 lives.

There have been 54 confirmed cases since June 1 in Mbandaka, a transport hub in Equateur province, including 22 deaths, according to figures released by the country’s health ministry on Friday.

There were four additional suspected cases.

The outbreak is DR Congo’s 11th since Ebola was identified in 1976.

On June 25, the vast central African country officially declared an end to an Ebola epidemic that broke out in the east two years ago, which Health Minister Eteni Longondo said was “the longest, most complex and deadliest” in the country’s history.

The two epidemics have no common viral strain, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO called the latest figures “of great concern”, saying that it had identified 56 cases by Thursday.

“It is now surpassing the previous outbreak in this area which was closed off and controlled at a total of 54 cases,” said Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO’s regional director for Africa, referring to a 2018 Ebola outbreak in Equateur in which 33 people died.

– Remote villages –

The epidemic is spreading from Mbandaka’s urban centre to surrounding remote villages in forests along the Congo River, some of which can only be accessed by canoe or all-terrain vehicles.

“There are infections in several villages,” a local official, Moraliste Nembetwa, told AFP.

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.

Serge Ngalebato, a doctor at the Bikoro hospital, said the epidemic affects “an area with fragile health”.

“In 2018, we had the Ebola epidemic. In 2020, the measles epidemic. As I speak, we have five cases of polio,” he said.

The country is 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.

DR Congo is also struggling with the new coronavirus, with 8,249 cases including 193 fatalities.

WHO officials worry that because of these competing health crises, there could be a lack of funding for the Ebola epidemic.

“We have less than two million dollars in our account,” said WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib about funding for the current Ebola outbreak.

– ‘Put lives at risk’ –

DR Congo’s partners and donors may be cautious over worries that an injection of money could create fertile ground for conflicts of interest, a source close to the United Nations told AFP.

An investigation by The New Humanitarian last month found that payments to security forces and job kickback schemes “may have jeopardised humanitarian operations and put lives at risk”.

The influx of money to combat the spread of the virus in the east “has raised people’s expectations”, the source said.

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

Officials must “listen and involve communities in time, in dialogue and planning the response… otherwise we risk being counter-productive,” said Abdou Dieng, head of the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response.

Health authorities have launched a vaccination campaign, as was done in the east where two experimental vaccines were widely deployed and more than 320,000 people received a jab.

“More than 8,000 people have been vaccinated,” said Alhassane Toure, a vaccination coordinator.

“All the affected health zones have been covered by the vaccination.”




Anti-Ebola Radio Station Closes Down After Broadcaster’s Murder


A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered.

Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.

“Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts.

“We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don’t know why the militiamen are targeting us.”

Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.

The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region.

Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats. Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation.

On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze.

The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after “the state has restored authority in the area”.


Mali Declared Ebola Free

Ebola_VictimMali’s Health Minister declared the West African nation free of Ebola on Sunday following a 42-day period without a new case of the deadly virus.

Mali recorded six deaths from Ebola, which, according to World Health Organization data, has killed more than 8,400 people in neighbouring Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia in the worst epidemic of the viral haemorrhagic fever on record.

“I declare on this day, January 18, 2015, the end of the Ebola epidemic in Mali,” Ousmane Koné said in a statement in which he thanked the country’s health workers and international partners for their work to halt the outbreak.

The country “had come out” of the epidemic, confirmed Ibrahima Soce Fall, the head of the Malian office of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER).

Mali’s last infected patient recovered and left hospital early last month. At one point health officials had been monitoring more than 300 contact cases.

Mali became the sixth West African country to record a case of Ebola when a two-year-old girl from Guinea died in October. It was close to being declared Ebola free in November before a second wave of infections hit the country.

At least 21,296 people have so far been infected with the virus, the WHO has said.

Ebola Deaths In West Africa Reaches 1,427 – WHO

Ebola DeathsThe World Health Organisation (WHO) has said on Friday, that the Ebola epidemic in West Africa has led to 1,427 deaths out of 2,615 known cases.

In its latest update, the WHO reported 142 new laboratory-confirmed, probable or suspected cases and 77 more Ebola deaths from four affected countries – Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone.

Earlier, the WHO said that the scale of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak had been concealed by families hiding infected loved ones in their homes and the existence of “shadow zones” that medics cannot enter.

It is due to issue a global strategy plan towards the end of next week in Geneva.