Alongside the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing battles with cholera and measles, the Congo has now confirmed almost 80 new cases of Ebola. But what makes this 11th outbreak most frightening is the hotspots geographic proximity to Kinshasa, the Capitol of the country and home to more than 11 million people. The newest cases have been identified in Mbandaka (Équateur province), with an estimated 33 reported deaths in just the last few weeks.
“The current Ebola outbreak is running into headwinds because cases are scattered across remote areas in dense rain forests. This makes for a costly response as ensuring that responders and supplies reach affected populations is extremely challenging,” explains WHO’s Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti. “Responding to Ebola in the midst of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic is complex, but we must not let COVID-19 distract us from tackling other pressing health threats,” he warns.
However, with each day the likelihood Ebola will spread from one area to another, and internationally, grows. Not only because of continued violence in the region that has forced thousands to flee (often to other countries), but because of lack of access and reporting in remote regions. As the outbreak gains momentum, it has great potential to cross African borders like the Congo into Uganda, meaning further implications for other nations such as South Sudan and Rwanda cannot be ignored.
So what happens when a contagious disease with around a 50% fatality rate, incessant violence and distrust in the health system collide? The “perfect storm” for the spread of disease. Here’s what you need to know about the latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC and what the country’s Ministry of Health is dealing with to help prevent further spread of disease.
Global health challenges are directly linked to national security. While for many in the Western world the Congo seems a long way away, Covid-19 has shown just how quickly a virus can spread without proper attention and resources. It has also highlighted for many just how important and difficult building trust and fighting bad information can be as it pertains to infectious diseases. The DRC’s 11th Ebola outbreak is a wakeup call for us all, and a reminder that we, along with the rest of the world, must avoid complacency.
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