DR Congo: Ebola response resumes despite ‘risky environment’

UN Photo/Michael Ali Peacekeepers serving with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) partner with local organizations to provide medical and nutritional care to orphaned and otherwise vulnerable children in North Kivu province.

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.

Despite a precarious security environment and continuing pockets of mistrust on the part of affected populations, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Tuesday that all Ebola-affected areas in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s (DRC) North Kivu Province are now accessible to health workers.

Civil unrest in Beni, the epicenter of the epidemic, crippled operations last month. But WHO says that now, under Government leadership and in collaboration with partner agencies, the Ebola response has resumed in force. However, it warned, further disruptions and security issues, could seriously impact the complex effort to end the outbreak.

The main challenges to the response are a hazardous security situation and the inability to prevent and control infection in many public and private health facilities.

WHO revealed that some 577 confirmed cases and 377 deaths have been recorded since the outbreak was declared in August last year. The UN agency also stated that 220 people have recovered and more than 56,500 have been vaccinated.

From 31 December 2018 to 2 January 2019, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus traveled to Ebola-affected areas in the DRC, where he spelled out that “Ebola responders are sacrificing a lot… to combat one of the world’s deadliest viruses in a risky environment.”

Accompanying him, Dr, Jeremy Farrar, Chair of WHO’s Research and Development Blueprint, came away “worried by the immense challenges they face in such a complex environment.”

At a glance: DRC’s continuing battle against Ebola:

  • WHO currently has 447 staff in DRC to support the response.
  • Some 37,000 contacts have been registered for tracing, with almost 5,000 under surveillance.
  • Six Ebola Treatment Centers are caring for 143 inpatients – 30 confirmed cases.
  • To date, 248 patients have been treated under the MEURI protocol, an ethical framework developed by WHO, in consultation with experts and the DRC.
  •  As of Sunday, 44 patients were enrolled in a randomized control trial in Beni.
  • Over 24,000,000 travelers have been screened, with two confirmed cases detected among them.

“It is vital the international community recognizes this and ensures the DRC and WHO have the support needed to ensure this outbreak does not spiral out of control,” he said.

The Ebola outbreak is in reality, several distinct outbreaks in the different affected areas. While the major outbreak in Beni, which was responsible for a large proportion of cases in recent months, is coming under control, the positive trend there is not mirrored elsewhere.

WHO pointed out that the volatile situation in Komanda and Butembo/Katwa has rendered those outbreaks more unstable.

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