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article imageEbola outbreak in DRC is now out of control, say experts

By Karen Graham     May 15, 2019 in Health
The Democratic Republic of Congo's devastating Ebola outbreak is the second-biggest in history, but experts are now saying it's out of control and could end up becoming an international crisis.
The Guardian is reporting that the number of new Ebola cases in the conflict-riven region of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this past month have increased at the fastest rate since the outbreak began last year.
There is a real fear that because this latest outbreak is now out of control, it could grow to rival the outbreak that devastated three countries in West Africa between 2013 and 2016. Sadly, young people are being especially hard hit, with almost a third of cases being children under the age of 18.
The current outbreak has now infected 1,720 and killed 1,136, giving the viral disease a whopping 66 percent fatality rate, reports Gizmodo. And while this outbreak may be the second worst Ebola epidemic in history, the World Health Organization warns that “these numbers are likely to continue to increase."
On May 4, Digital Journal reported that in a press conference, the executive director of the WHO's Health Emergencies Programme, Michael Ryan said that while over 100,000 people have been vaccinated against the virus, the WHO is planning to expand its vaccination efforts because the organization is fearing the worst.
Ryan also said that Ebola treatment centers have come under repeated attack by armed gangs, forcing international aid workers to withdraw, leaving government health officials to staff clinics in the hotspots of Butembo and Katwa. At that time, 1,529 people had been infected in the outbreak, and of those, 1,008 had died.
On May 9, in a press release, WHO, in an update wrote that "In Butembo and surrounding health zones, response activities were repeatedly halted due to a number of serious security incidents taking place from May 4 through 6. On May 8th, a group of over 50 armed militia infiltrated the city center."
Attacks on Ebola treatment centers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have complicated efforts ...
Attacks on Ebola treatment centers in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have complicated efforts to stamp out the outbreak, now in its tenth month
The violence is hampering efforts to help the sick and dying
There are dozens of rebel groups who operate in the region, and these armed militias are to blame, in part, for the negative response to health workers trying to treat the sick. They also have been waging a misinformation campaign within the local communities.
Jeremy Farrar, the head of the Wellcome Trust, has called for a brokered ceasefire so that healthcare workers can do their job in stopping the outbreak. A six- to a nine-month ceasefire, brokered by the UN, the Red Cross or similar bodies, is vital to stopping the spread, he said. “There was violence in West Africa, in Freetown and Monrovia, but this is on a different scale and it is coming from multiple sources.”
Health workers are seen inside the 'red zone' of an Ebola treatment centre that was attack...
Health workers are seen inside the 'red zone' of an Ebola treatment centre that was attacked in March
David Miliband, the head of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), returning from a visit to his team in the region was also deeply concerned. “The situation is far more dangerous than the statistic of 1,000 deaths, itself the second largest in history, suggests and the suspension of key services threatens to create a lethal inflection point in the trajectory of the disease,” he said. “The danger is that the number of cases spirals out of control, despite a proven vaccine and treatment.”
The IRC has had three triage units in health centers burned down, and last week, members of the armed Mai-Mai rebel group attacked a treatment center in Butembo, while this week, two patients were killed during an assault on a treatment center in Katwa.
The IRC is warning that the situation in North Kivu is increasingly volatile and is making progress against the disease impossible.
The WHO director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had this to say about what is happening now in the DRC: “We are entering a phase where we will need major shifts in the response. WHO and partners cannot tackle these challenges without the international community stepping in to fill the sizeable funding gap.”
“The tragedy is that we have the technical means to stop Ebola, but until all parties halt attacks on the response, it will be very difficult to end this outbreak,” Dr. Tedros tweeted on Friday.
More about ebola outbreak, Drc, Out of control, International crisis, widespread violence
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