‘Air bridge’ vaccination operation begins for Ebola-hit communities in DR Congo

UN Photo/Martine Perret Staff at the Katwa Ebola treatment Unit in Butembo in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo disinfect boots and wash clothes. (August 2019)

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


The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has seen an increase in the number of reported cases of the deadly haemorrhagic virus Ebola linked to ongoing violence by armed groups targeting remote communities, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

According to the UN agency’s latest outbreak update, 27 new cases were identified last week in the east of the country – three times the average number of infections in the past 21 days.

“The last three weeks were below 10 cases and this is only in four (DRC health) zones, and this is where we need to ensure access to finish the job,” Dr Michel Yao, Incident Manager, with the WHO Ebola Response team in the DRC, told journalists in Geneva. “Unfortunately it is in this area where we are facing the insecurity. This area is a mainly rural area, so for the big cities the outbreak is more or less controlled.”

Although the development is worrying, current infection rates are well down on the 120 cases a week reported during the peak of the outbreak, in late April.

In a further more promising development, WHO reported that in Beni and Mabalako Health Zones, the percentage of contacts under surveillance in the last seven days has returned to levels seen prior to “security events” that have hampered the Ebola response teams in past weeks – a reference to reported violent public demonstrations.

Outbreak in four health zones only

And in a further sign of progress in the fight against the outbreak – DRC’s tenth in 40 years – is the fact that it is now restricted to four health zones, as opposed to the 29 originally identified in North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri.

Nonetheless, attacks on healthworkers and Ebola clinics – including deadly violence against Ebola responders in Biakato (Ituri province) in late November – have meant that the vital work of tracing people who have come into contact with Ebola patients and vaccinating them has been severely restricted.

“In these (health) zones, there’s one (area) in particular called Lwemba that we haven’t been able to access for three weeks,” Dr Yao explained. “And when you don’t have access, you can’t vaccinate the contacts and others at risk. You can’t find confirm new cases of infection so you can’t do safe burials, you can’t get infected people out and get them medical care.”

One person near Beni ‘infected 17 others’

Most of the new cases identified in the last week were linked to one individual near Beni town who could have infected 17 people.

“The person who passed away is in a place that’s called Aloya. It’s close to Beni, but this person unfortunately died,” Dr Yao said.

According to WHO, this same person recovered from Ebola six months ago.

It is now investigating whether they were reinfected by someone else – which has never been documented – or suffered a relapse, which has happened before.

Since the outbreak began in North Kivu and Ituri last August, 2,210 people have died from the disease.

It is the second largest Ebola emergency to date, after the West Africa crisis from 2016-2016 that saw more than 28,600 cases of infection.

‘Air bridge’ team has started vaccinations

To ensure continued care, WHO has mounted a limited daily helicopter “air bridge” operation to the communities still at risk.

The health team on board conducted their first vaccinations on Thursday, Dr Yao said.

“The helicopter that we’re using has space for around 20 people so it means we can transport epidemiologists to do their investigations, but above all the vaccination team,” Dr Yao explained, noting that the communities had come to the Ebola responders seeking help. They “want the intervention”, he insisted, “but around we have armed groups that prevent us from reaching these communities”.

He added: “We’re mobilising communities all around to come and get vaccinated in a situation where there are (health) alerts but we can’t go to investigate because access is restricted.”

With up to 100 armed groups believed to operate in the vast forested region of eastern DRC bordering Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, attacks on Ebola-hit communities have sparked a humanitarian crisis and threatened aid distribution, amid serious civil unrest.

“Since the start of this epidemic, there’s been one factor that we haven’t been able to control: the intervention context,” Dr Yao said, adding that “when these communities are attacked, there are demonstrations everywhere, which in fact stops Ebola intervention work”.

the sting Milestones

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Yemen: ‘No justification for this carnage,’ says UNICEF chief, as children in need now outnumber population of Switzerland

Environmental labelling, information and management schemes are central to the circular economy

How COVID could democratise commutes

At least half of people who have a job fear they’ll lose it in the next 12 months

How COVID-19 could open the door for driverless deliveries

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

‘Crimes against humanity,’ ‘war crimes’ and risk of new ethnic violence in DR Congo, warn UN experts

EU industry: Commission takes action to improve synergies between civil, defence and space industries

Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: Busting the myth by looking at the facts

The world is failing miserably on access to education. Here’s how to change course

Human trafficking, slavery reports and health of migrants in Libya

Urgent action needed to address growing opioid crisis

The issue of mental health for modern young doctors

Link between conflict and hunger worldwide, ‘all too persistent and deadly’, says new UN report

How Eurozone consumers spend their income when they have one…

The countries most ready for the global energy transition

How the world can ‘reset’ itself after COVID-19 – according to these experts

UN experts decry torture of Rakhine men and boys held incommunicado by Myanmar’s military

34 million Americans know someone who died after being unable to pay for medical treatment

Germany caught with selfish double standards in euro area policy

Mergers: Commission approves Synthomer’s acquisition of Omnova, subject to conditions

Easing funding woes for UN agency assisting Palestine refugees a ‘wise investment for today and the future’

‘Foreign children’ in overwhelmed Syrian camp need urgent international help, says top UN official

“As German Chancellor I want to be able to cope with the merger of the real and digital economy”, Angela Merkel from Switzerland; the Sting reports live from World Economic Forum 2015 in Davos

7 simple steps we can all take to reduce food waste

‘Being open about my mental health created a better work culture’

5 myths about face masks under the microscope

COVID-19 is likely to increase youth unemployment in Africa, this is how business can mitigate the damage

This is why retail is such a sore point in India-US trade relations

Corporate tax remains a key revenue source, despite falling rates worldwide

Trust in OECD governments back at pre-crisis levels as governments seek to be more open and engaged

Coronavirus: Commission stands ready to continue supporting EU’s agri-food sector

Mental health in times of a pandemic: what can each individual do to lessen the burden?

A brief history of vaccines and how they changed the world

Quicker freezing and confiscation of criminal assets in the EU

Madagascar: UN chief commends nation on first round of peaceful elections

How trade tariffs could help combat climate change

Mental health in a pandemic: what to do to ease the burden on people with disabilities?

Home working has exposed us all to more cybercrime. Here’s how to close the breach

How we can win the war against antibiotic resistance

Globalization 4.0 must provide for the poorest, or it risks causing chaos for everyone

JADE Spring Meeting 2015: a step forward for Youth Entrepreneurship

Coronavirus: harmonised standards for medical devices to respond to urgent needs

Giving humanitarian help to migrants should not be a crime, say MEPs

This electric plane has flown successfully for 30 minutes – is this the future of flying?

Fighting crime: faster EU-wide exchange of non-EU nationals’ criminal records

3 challenges facing global gig economy growth after COVID-19

Neither side stands to benefit in US-China trade spat, UN says

‘InvestEU’ programme: big boost for jobs, growth and investment

Prospect of lasting peace ‘fading by the day’ in Gaza and West Bank, senior UN envoy warns

Virtual Doctor: a core part of modern healthcare?

“Asia-Pacific takes stock of ambitious development targets”, written by the Heads of UNFPA and ESCAP

Dozens of children at risk as clashes in Hudaydah near hospital – UNICEF

Click and Download: your app is ready to help you save lives

It’s time to stop talking about ethics in AI and start doing it

A new tidal energy project just hit a major milestone in Scotland

“Private” sea freight indexes hide Libor like skeletons?

Italy’s Letta: A European Banking Union soon or Eurozone collapses

The EU Commission predicts a decimated growth in the next years

‘Stay together and step up’ action to meet Global Goals, ECOSOC President tells development forum

More Stings?

Advertising

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s