DRC suffering worst Ebola outbreak in history
Fight against the deadly disease complicated by ongoing conflict and vaccine fears
The current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is the most severe in the country’s history, according to the government.
Roughly 200 people have died and more than 300 have been infected by the highly contagious virus, the health ministry announced on Friday.
This is the 10th Ebola outbreak the war-ravaged country has suffered in the past four decades.
“No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing,” said Health Minister Oly Ilunga.
He added: “In view of these figures, my thoughts and my prayers go to the hundreds of families grieving, to the hundreds of orphans and the families which have been wiped out.”
Efforts to contain the outbreak, which is centred in the conflict-hit North Kivu region, have been hampered by militia attacks on medical teams.
North Kivu is “awash with violence and insecurity, particularly in the mineral-rich borderlands where militia activity has surged in the past year, all of which complicates the response to the outbreak,” ABC News reports.
There is no known cure for Ebola, which kills between 25% and 90% of its victims.
A vaccination programme has so far inoculated about 25,000 people in the DRC, but health professionals warn that suspicion of the new vaccine is widespread.
“Lots of people reject the vaccine and they talk a lot about it,” Dr Maneno Muhindangabo Henry told Sky News. “They say if you take it you will become infertile, it will kill you, it has bad effects.”
The head of World Health Organisation, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said health workers have never had to deal with such a complicated epidemic.
“The situation with this outbreak is very different from other outbreaks,” he said. “Even the West Africa outbreak because there is a serious security problem here, an active army conflict and that complicates the situation.”
The UN agency has previously admitted that it was “too slow” to respond to the 2014-16 West African Ebola outbreak that killed more than 11,000 people across six countries.