WHO extremely concerned about Ebola
'perfect storm' in Congo
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[September 25, 2018]
(ALIMA) treatment center in Beni
A medical worker wears a protective suit as
he prepares to administer Ebola patient care at The Alliance for
International Medical Action (ALIMA) treatment center in Beni
By Tom Miles
GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization said on Tuesday that an
Ebola outbreak in northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo could worsen
rapidly because of attacks by armed groups, community resistance and the
geographic spread of the disease.
"We are now extremely concerned that several factors may be coming
together over the next weeks and months to create a potential perfect
storm," WHO's head of emergency response Peter Salama told a news
conference in Geneva.
At least 100 people have died in the outbreak, out of 150 cases in North
Kivu and Ituri provinces.
The response was at a critical juncture, and although the weekly number
of new cases has fallen from about 40 to about 10 in the past few weeks
and more than 11,700 people have been vaccinated, there were major
obstacles ahead, Salama said.
Attacks by armed opposition groups had increased in severity and
frequency, especially those attributed to the Alliance of Democratic
Forces, most dramatically an attack that killed 21 in the city of Beni,
where WHO's operation is based.
The city has declared a "ville morte", a period of mourning until at
least Friday, obliging WHO to suspend its operations.
On Monday 80 percent of Ebola contacts -- people at risk of developing
the disease and so requiring monitoring -- and three suspected cases in
and around Beni could not be reached for disease monitoring.
Pockets of "reluctance, refusal and resistance" to accept Ebola
vaccination were generating many of the new cases, Salama said.
"We also see a very concerning trend. That resistance, driven by quite
natural fear of this terrifying disease, is starting to be exploited by
local politicians, and we're very concerned in the run up to elections,
projected for December, that that exploitation... will gather momentum
and make it very difficult to root out the last cases of Ebola."
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A medical worker wears a protective suit as he prepares to
administer Ebola patient care at The Alliance for International
Medical Action (ALIMA) treatment center in Beni, North Kivu province
of the Democratic Republic of Congo September 6, 2018. Picture taken
September 6, 2018. REUTERS/Fiston Mahamba
Some people were fleeing into the forest to escape Ebola follow-up
treatment and checks, sometimes moving hundreds of kilometers, he
There was one such case to the south of Beni, and another to the
north, close to the riverbanks of Lake Albert. Both were
inaccessible for security reasons.
Neighboring Uganda was now facing an "imminent threat", and social
media posts were conflating Ebola with criticism of the DRC
government and the United Nations and "a range of conspiracy
theories", which could put healthworkers at risk.
"We will not yet consider the need to evacuate but we are developing
a range of contingency plans to see where our staff are best
located," he said.
"If WHO and its partners had to leave North Kivu ... we would have
grave concerns that this outbreak would not be able to be well
controlled in the coming weeks or months."
(Reporting by Tom Miles, Editing by Andrew Heavens, William Maclean)
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