Almost 2,000 cases of Ebola have been reported in the Democratic Republic of Congo, as the central African nation struggles with the second largest outbreak of the disease in history.
Family members watch the deceased victim of the Ebola virus being buried on May 16, 2019 in Butembo. The city of Butembo is at the epicentre of the Ebola crisis in the DR Congo.
Health officials in the DRC said Sunday there were 1,994 reported cases of the disease, of which 1,900 have been confirmed as Ebola. So far, 1,245 people are confirmed to have died, with another 94 deaths reported.
The outbreak, which began last August, has proved difficult to bring under control because of community mistrust and violent attacks on health care workers.
Last month, the World Health Organization (WHO) said sporadic violence by armed militias, limited health care resources and difficult-to-access locations meant this outbreak was taking place in one of the “most challenging circumstances ever confronted by WHO.”
WHO epidemiologist Dr. Richard Mouzoko was killed by armed men in April while working in Butembo, in North Kivu, a province grappling with a long-term conflict and dozens of armed groups.
“Dr. Mouzoko’s death moved me profoundly,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement after the attack. “I am also profoundly worried about the situation. Cases are increasing because of violent acts that set us back each time.”
The attack took place during a coordination meeting at the hospital where Mouzoko was working.
Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres) staff have also been attacked, prompting the group to suspend work in some Ebola-hit areas.
The DR Congo outbreak has affected the northeastern provinces of North Kivu and neighboring Ituri. The two provinces are among the most populous in the country and border Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
Unlike the 2014 outbreak in West Africa that killed more than 11,000 people, there are now vaccines and experimental treatments for Ebola. While it warned against travel to affected areas, the WHO said the outbreak did not constitute a “public health emergency of international concern.”
Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors Without Borders, said in March that the response to Ebola had to be more community-based, treating patients as humans, “not as a biothreat.”
“People prefer to stay in the community, not go to treatment centers,” she said.
Gwenola Seroux, manager at Doctors Without Borders, warned that it was “clear that the outbreak is not under control and therefore we need a better collective effort. The virus has not spread to neighboring countries so far, but the possibility exists.”