Since the start of the month the death toll of the Ebola outbreak in the north-east has climbed from 15 to 31, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, defining the situation “serious”.
Fadela Chaib, a spokeswoman for the Geneva-based agency, stressed that “it is unusual that the first person to be infected was a health worker”. The areas affected by the outbreak are Isiro and Viadana (70km apart), in the Eastern Province (north-east).
“It was said that the epidemic has reached its maximum peak, but that the people must remain vigilant since the declining phase hasn’t begun yet and the virus cannot be considered under control. The infected were brought to the General Hospital of Isiro, and from fear residents are avoiding the area”, said local MISNA missionary sources.
There is no specific treatment for Ebola, a virus that appeared the first time in 1976 in Zaire at the time and cyclically reappears in various Central African nations, including Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. The most deadly outbreak was in 2000 that left 225 dead.
Ebola, which causes a hemorrhagic fever and has a death rate of up to 90%, is transmitted through direct contact with infected people, in particular at funerals.
The WHO and UN have launched an international appeal for $2-million “to join in the fight against this epidemic, which if not controlled quickly, is a public health emergency that can quickly be global”, said Dr. Léodegal Bazira, WHO representative in the DR-Congo. Funds should help “the government to organize this struggle to provide means to fight this. It is a struggle that many countries, not only the DR-Congo cannot undertake alone”, he added.
“Congo’s health sector has for decades been left to its own demise, with the result of an increasing critical degradation. There is a lack of political will, incapacity of the State and lack of funds that have led to a two track health system”, denounces a civil society source of the Eastern Province. “Because current, today’s problem is Ebola, but how many people have died in silence from cholera, malaria, malnutrition and diarrhea, all easily treatable”, added the source, who prefers to remain anonymous.
There is a lack of health facilities in the former Belgian colony, especially in the small towns and remote villages, but also medical supplies, drugs and doctors. The private structures and those run by the church work better, but often at prohibitive costs for the majority of the people.