The World Health Organization (WHO) has announced a “dreaded” development in the Eastern Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak. As reported by Reuters, the Ituri and North Kivu provinces have already experienced more than 100 probable Ebola cases. Of those, 63 were confirmed as Ebola after the afflicted patients died from the disease.
A doctor is now believed to have contracted the illness, and he’s currently hospitalized for the second time after presenting Ebola symptoms. His symptoms haven’t led to a positive Ebola test yet, but it can take up to 21 days for this to occur, and his wife has officially contracted the disease. Thirteen other health workers have also been listed as probable cases.
WHO has been able to help numerous Ebola-stricken areas in the past, but there’s a big complication in this region that could lead to a major outbreak. North Kivu is overrun by ADF Ugandan Islamist militia members, and this makes providing aid a highly risky proposition. Several civilians have been murdered by the militia. Hostages have also been taken, including government officials, priests, and aid workers.
The doctor in question is stuck inside Oicha, which is one of the most volatile areas of North Kivu. MONUSCO troops did help WHO members access Oicha, but everyone who has entered the area faces the risk of being killed, kidnapped, or contracting Ebola.
WHO’s head of emergency operations, Dr. Peter Salama, issued a statement about the precarious situation.
“For the first time, really, we have a confirmed case and contacts in an area of very high insecurity. It really was the problem we were anticipating and the problem at [the] same time that we were dreading… We know from that incident now in Oicha we are going to have to operate in some very complex environments due to security and access concerns.”
An already bad situation was made much worse when a vaccination center located in Manbangu was destroyed by fire. Dr. Salama attributes this vandalism to young residents who were angered after learning about a local Ebola death. The Manbangu center was in the process of providing vaccines to help protect the Eastern Congo’s most vulnerable citizens. Per the BBC, approximately 2,900 people have received a vaccination, but it is unknown how many additional vaccines were lost in the Mangangu fire.
Dr. Salama warns that this is “a pivotal moment in the outbreak.” Without the proper medical response, this bout of Ebola has the potential to spread into an epidemic such as the one that killed more than 11,000 people in West Africa. Unless the militia gangs stand down, though, there’s little that WHO can do to prevent an epidemic from happening.
Additionally, the director-general of WHO said on August 1o that the region of the Eastern Congo has high-population density, great instability and large displacement; all conditions which could favor the spread of the nation’s spread of the 1oth outbreak of the Ebola virus. Because of this, he said that the response to its threat must be stronger than ever before.