Ebola situation worsens in DR Congo

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Strengthening security and the Ebola response effort is essential to contain the growing outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), UN health agency’s officials said this week, following a visit to the epicentre of the worst outbreak in the country’s history.

Following their visit to Butembo to express gratitude and show support to staff in the wake of the recent attack at a treatment centre that killed Dr Richard Mouzoko and left two others injured, World Health Organisation (WHO) chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus and the agency’s Africa Regional Director Dr Matshidiso Moeti reiterated their commitment to “defeat Ebola”.

During the visit, Moeti and Tedros assessed the next steps needed to adjust and improve the response. This was after meeting local political, business and religious leaders and calling on them to accelerate efforts to stabilise conditions on the ground.

“Most Ebola response activities, including community engagement, vaccination and case investigation, were relaunched following a slowdown in the wake of the attack. A recent rise in reported cases is straining resources,” WHO said.

“We will continue to adjust response, as we have done in each community,” Moeti said. “In the end, it is only through ownership by all affected communities that the outbreak will end. Some would have Ebola drive us apart. We can only defeat it if we work together.”

“We are entering a phase where we will need major shifts in response,” Tedros said adding the challenges can only be tackled if the international community “fills the sizeable funding gap”, currently around 50% underfunded.

Pride and respect for WHO staff

The head of WHO said Mouzoko’s death “moved him profoundly” and added the much-respected epidemiologist deployed by the agency “was on his mind the whole time of the visit, as they met with other dedicated colleagues”.
Moeti pointed out colleagues have been through something “unimaginable and yet were willing to continue vital work”.

More than 1 200 confirmed and probable cases of Ebola have been recorded since the outbreak began, with over 760 deaths confirmed.