By Christopher Bendana
A fresh wave of Ebola in the DRC has infected 100 people in the last one month. A World Health Organisation statement released from the African regional office in Brazzaville to the press on August 21 reveals widespread infections in the province.
It states that the virus has spread to 11 of the provinces 17 health zones since the first case of this 11 wave was detected on June 1 in Equateur Province.
Of the 100 cases reported so far, 96 are confirmed and four are probable. Forty-three people have lost their lives.
Epidemics in Congo come with multiple challenges and health experts are worried. This one presents significant logistical challenges, with affected communities spanning large distances in remote and densely-forested areas of the province, which straddles the Equator.
At its widest points, the outbreak is spread across approximately 300 km both from east to west and from north to south. It can take days to reach affected populations, with responders and supplies often having to traverse areas without roads, necessitating long periods of riverboat travel.
An Ebola outbreak occurred in the same province in May 2018 and was contained in less than three months with 54 cases and 33 deaths recorded.
“With 100 Ebola cases in less than 100 days, the outbreak in Equateur Province is evolving in a concerning way,” said Dr Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “The virus is spreading across a wide and rugged terrain which requires costly interventions and with COVID-19 draining resources and attention, it is hard to scale-up operations.”
The current response is underfunded, adding challenges to the existing logistical barriers. WHO initially provided US$ 1.7 million and subsequently supplemented this with another US$ 600 000 from its contingency fund for emergencies. The DRC Ministry of Health has presented an integrated plan to donors and partners for about US$ 40 million and has committed US$ 4 million.
WHO says there is a critical need for additional support.
“Without extra support, the teams on the ground will find it harder to get ahead of the virus,” said Dr Moeti. “COVID-19 is not the only emergency needing robust support. As we know from our recent history we ignore Ebola at our peril.”