DR Congo records 1,000th Ebola death in current outbreak

The epidemic continues to claim lives in eastern DRC amid a climate of mistrust, repeated attacks on health workers.


The DRC's current Ebola outbreak, its tenth to date, emerged in eastern North Kivu province in August [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]
The DRC’s current Ebola outbreak, its tenth to date, emerged in eastern North Kivu province in August [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

The death toll in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak has risen to more than 1,000, according to the country’s health ministry, with a volatile security situation and deep community distrust complicating efforts to beat back the nine-month-old epidemic.

The Ministry of Public Health said in its latest update on Friday that 14 new deaths from the virus were recorded, taking the toll to 1,008 deaths from more than 1,450 confirmed cases registered since the epidemic erupted in August.

The ministry’s update came after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned earlier on Friday that health officials were “anticipating a scenario of continued intense transmission” after 126 confirmed cases were reported over a seven-day stretch ending on Sunday, a record for the current outbreak.

Health ministry spokeswoman Jessica Ilunga said the surge in cases was the result of attacks on health workers and treatment centres disrupting “response activities” in recent weeks.

“Security has been a big issue, and every time we have an incident, essential response activities such as contact tracing, vaccination and safe burials are suspended for an indefinite period of time, giving time and space for the virus to spread,” Ilunga told Al Jazeera.

Repeated attacks

The DRC‘s current Ebola outbreak, its tenth to date, emerged in eastern North Kivu province last year before spreading to the neighbouring Ituri province.

In a bid to contain the outbreak, health workers have inoculated more than 109,000 people to date as part of a government-backed vaccination programme. The vaccine is experimental, but is estimated to be 97.5 percent effective.

More than 1,450 confirmed cases of Ebola have been registered since the epidemic erupted in August [File: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters]

Efforts to beat back the virus have been hampered by ongoing unrest in the eastern DRC, however, and widespread distrust among elements of the local population towards both the central government, which postponed presidential and legislative elections in parts of the region blaming the Ebola outbreak, as well as the medical strategies deployed by emergency responders.


Community mistrust worsening DR Congo Ebola outbreak: study

Scores of armed groups operate in the conflict-wracked region, including in the areas surrounding the North Kivu cities of Beni and Butembo, where the current outbreak is concentrated.

Ebola treatment centres and health workers have repeatedly been subject to attacks, with 119 such incidents recorded since January, according to WHO.

On Friday, Michael Ryan, WHO’s emergencies chief, warned at a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva that insecurity had become a “major impediment to ensuring that we can access, engage with and serve the communities we wish to serve in Ebola control”.

In April, heavily armed assailants raided a hospital in Butembo and killed Richard Mouzoko, a Cameroonian WHO doctor working on the Ebola response.

The assault came after  unidentified attackers in February torched two of Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) treatment facilities in North Kivu, prompting the organisation to suspend operations in the area and warn soon after that “a climate of deepening community mistrust” was taking a grip amid “various political, social and economic grievances” and an allegedly overly militarised response by authorities to the outbreak.

Widespread mistrust

Christoph Vogel, a former UN expert on the DRC and a researcher with the UK-based London School of Economics’ Conflict Research Programme, said there were a “host of different factors” complicating the medical response and warned the recent attacks showed the climate on the ground was “extremely poisoned”.

“It (the outbreak) is happening in an area that has witnessed entrenched armed conflict, massive violence and all sorts of distrust between different actors, communities and elites; this is probably the central factor that makes the outbreak so hard to tackle compared to other ones,” Vogel told Al Jazeera.

Health workers have inoculated more than 109,000 people to date as part of a government-backed vaccination programme [File: Baz Ratner/Reuters]

Vogel cautioned it was not clear who was behind the attacks on health centres and medical professionals, but said international actors and DRC authorities should have done more to try and build trust with communities affected by the epidemic, pointing to widely held local views that the outbreak was fabricated to benefit business-owning local elites or further destabilise the region.


‘It breaks my heart’: WHO chief decries raid on DRC Ebola centre

According to a recent study by the Lancet Infectious Diseases journal, some 32 percent of respondents in Ebola-hit regions of the eastern DRC said they did not believe the virus existed and was instead invented for financial gains. More than 36 percent believed the epidemic was fabricated to destabilise the area.

Fewer than two-thirds of the nearly 1,000 respondents said they would take a vaccine for Ebola.

Ilunga, for her part, admitted some people in the “historically neglected” eastern DRC “didn’t believe” Ebola existed and said there were “several types of attack” being committed against health workers, all of which were “detrimental” to efforts to defeat the virus.

“The majority of violence against the medical response is community violence, for instance when Ebola responders go to family homes because they have been alerted someone has died … but when responders arrive some people chase them away,” Ilunga said.

“But the attacks on the Ebola treatment centres are more coordinated, by some kind of organised armed groups,” she added. “It is worrying, especially because the future of the outbreak depends on factors outside of our, the Ministry of Health’s control.”

The failure to overcome the outbreak so far has seen it evolve into the second-deadliest in recorded history, trailing an epidemic between 2013-2016 that killed about 11,300 people in West Africa as it surged through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.



Click here to post a comment

  • I just want to mention I am new to weblog and absolutely liked you’re blog. More than likely I’m likely to bookmark your blog post . You really come with terrific articles and reviews. Thanks for revealing your web-site.

  • Good day very cool site!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I will bookmark your web site and take the feeds also…I am glad to find numerous useful info here in the put up, we want work out more techniques on this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  • These days of austerity plus relative stress and anxiety about taking on debt, some people balk resistant to the idea of having a credit card in order to make purchase of merchandise as well as pay for any gift giving occasion, preferring, instead to rely on the tried and also trusted technique of making settlement – raw cash. However, if you have the cash on hand to make the purchase completely, then, paradoxically, that is the best time to use the card for several good reasons.

  • I have not checked in here for some time since I thought it was getting boring, but the last several posts are great quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend 🙂

  • Aw, this was a very nice post. In concept I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and precise effort to make an excellent article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and under no circumstances seem to get something done.

  • I simply could not leave your website prior to suggesting that I actually loved the usual info a person supply on your guests? Is going to be back often in order to investigate cross-check new posts

  • I simply couldn’t depart your website prior to suggesting that I actually enjoyed the usual information a person supply for your guests? Is gonna be back continuously in order to investigate cross-check new posts.

  • I cling on to listening to the news broadcast lecture about getting boundless online grant applications so I have been looking around for the most excellent site to get one. Could you advise me please, where could i get some?

  • I like what you guys are up also. Such smart work and reporting! Carry on the excellent works guys I have incorporated you guys to my blogroll. I think it will improve the value of my web site 🙂

  • You could definitely see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The world hopes for even more passionate writers like you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart. “Faith in the ability of a leader is of slight service unless it be united with faith in his justice.” by George Goethals.

  • Thanks for giving your ideas. I might also like to express that video games have been ever before evolving. Modern tools and enhancements have served create authentic and interactive games. These kind of entertainment video games were not as sensible when the actual concept was first being tried. Just like other designs of electronics, video games too have had to advance through many ages. This is testimony for the fast growth and development of video games.

  • I would like to thnkx for the efforts you’ve put in writing this site. I am hoping the same high-grade web site post from you in the upcoming also. Actually your creative writing abilities has inspired me to get my own site now. Really the blogging is spreading its wings fast. Your write up is a good example of it.

  • It is perfect time to make some plans for the future and it is time to be happy. I have read this post and if I could I want to suggest you few interesting things or suggestions. Perhaps you can write next articles referring to this article. I wish to read more things about it!

  • Nice post. I used to be checking constantly this weblog and I am inspired! Extremely helpful information specifically the ultimate phase 🙂 I take care of such info much. I used to be seeking this particular information for a long time. Thanks and good luck.

  • Undeniably believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the web the simplest thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly do not know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will likely be back to get more. Thanks

  • Thanks, I have just been looking for information approximately this topic for ages and yours is the greatest I have found out till now. But, what about the bottom line? Are you positive about the source?

  • of course like your website however you need to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts. A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I to find it very bothersome to inform the truth nevertheless I will definitely come back again.

  • Hi there! This is my first visit to your blog! We are a group of volunteers and starting a new initiative in a community in the same niche. Your blog provided us useful information to work on. You have done a outstanding job!

  • Aw, this was a really nice post. In thought I would like to put in writing like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… however what can I say… I procrastinate alot and in no way seem to get something done.