Ebola outbreak worst in history of Democratic Republic of Congo
The Democratic Republic of Congo is facing the worst Ebola outbreak in the country’s history, according to officials.
More than 200 people have died from the disease since August and almost 330 confirmed or probable cases have been reported.
This outbreak — the second this year — began in North Kivu province before spreading to Ituri province in the east of the country. It’s the 10th time since 1976 that Ebola has struck the DRC.
The country’s Minister of Public Health, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said Sunday that violence against health officials and civilians by militant groups battling for control in the affected region have thwarted efforts to contain the outbreak.
Two health workers died in one attack, according to the minister, while last month 11 civilians and one soldier were killed in Beni, a city of 800,000 people and the epicenter of the outbreak.
“No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing,” Kalenga said in a video statement posted to Twitter.
More than 1 million refugees and internally displaced people are in North Kivu and Ituri, according to World Health Organization (WHO), and their movement through and out of the provinces is a potential risk factor for the spread of Ebola.
Congo has long been plagued by political instability, and as the country prepares to hold a much-anticipated and delayed general election next month it is particularly vulnerable.
Last month, the WHO ruled that the current DRC Ebola outbreak did not meet the criteria for a public health emergency of international concern.
This month, the organization said 27,000 people had been vaccinated against Ebola in the country but noted that WHO workers often faced resistance from some communities to allow them to vaccinate and bury the dead due to issues of trust and misinformation.