Current Ebola Outbreak in DRC Surpasses 1,500 DeathsJune 26, 2019 in Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ebola
Latest figures released by the Health Ministry in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) indicate that the current Ebola outbreak in the eastern region of the country has surpassed 1,500 deaths. The Ebola outbreak, which was first detected in August 2018, is now the second largest outbreak in history.
On Monday 24 June, the country’s health ministry confirmed that as of 23 June, 1,506 people have died of Ebola out of 2,239 recorded cases. Officials have indicated that nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected DRC provinces of Itrui and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak. Ebola spread amongst humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids. The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014 – 2016, killing more than 11,300 people. Response to the current outbreak in eastern DRC however has been hampered by chronic violence and militia activity as well as hostility to medical teams amongst locals. On Monday 24 June, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team. One member of the medical team had been injured in the attack.
Regional countries are also increasingly being impacted by the outbreak, particularly Uganda, which earlier this month confirmed several cases of the deadly virus, coupled by increasing violence in the eastern DRC, which has resulted in thousands fleeing and crossing the border. The United Nations refugee agency reported on 25 June that about 7,500 Congolese fleeing violence have arrived in Uganda since the beginning of this month. The UNHCR has reported that people are leaving the DRC at a rate of 311 a day. The situation has been made worse because of the ongoing Ebola outbreak in the DRC and there are growing concerns that the refugees could be carrying the deadly virus. The refugees are running away from clashes between two ethnic groups – the Hema and the Lendu – in the DRC’s north-eastern province of Ituri, an area that has long been plagued by violence and lawlessness. According to the local governor, more than 160 people have been killed in two weeks of the violence in several villages of Ituri. UNHCR workers have reported that recent arrivals from the DRC “speak of extreme brutality. Armed groups are said to be attacking villages, torching and looting houses, and killing men, women and children.” The violence has been taking place in a remote area of the DRC, near South Sudan and Uganda where the UN says there is limited access for humanitarians. Authorities believe that the perpetrators were militia fighters from the Lendu community. The DRC’s military believes that they are linked to Mathieu Ngudjolo, who was acquitted of war crimes at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in 2012. Most Congolese are fleeing via Lake Albert from Ituri province, where an estimated 300,000 people have been displaced since early June. A refugee reception centre in Uganda is currently home to 4,600 new arrivals, 1,600 more than its maximum intended capacity.
At the beginning of June, Ugandan authorities confirmed that the Ebola virus claimed two lives amongst a family who had travelled to the DRC. The outbreak was reported on 11 June in the western Kasese District While currently there are no other known cases of the virus in the country, Ugandan authorities have increased detection procedures at border crossings and at airports.