Mercy Corps: The Ebola outbreak in DRC is not under control

In the past 14 days, 61 new cases of Ebola have been confirmed in DR Congo, bringing the total to 305 confirmed and probable deaths. It is already the third worst Ebola outbreak in DRC’s history and is on track to become the worst.

Mercy Corps is responding at the epicentre of the outbreak in Beni, and in affected areas in Butembo, Musinene and Lubero, with water and sanitation support, and preparing to scale-up our prevention programmes. We are also establishing preparedness programmes in Goma.

While an Ebola vaccine has been created, it is not licensed yet, which coupled with restricted access in the conflict-affected province of North Kivu, limits its usage.

Whitney Elmer, Deputy Country Director of Programmes for Mercy Corps in DRC, said:“My team is increasingly alarmed by gaps in the response to the Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, especially given the proximity to several cities and neighbouring countries, insecurity in the region and politicisation of the health crisis during an electoral season. We cannot overstate the risks of this virus moving to Goma or neighbouring Uganda.

We had hoped lessons had been learned after Ebola ravaged West Africa in 2014, claiming the lives of more than 11,000 people, but we are struggling to gain support for the response here, more than twelve weeks after the declaration of the outbreak.

Of particular concern is the insufficient donor support for community engagement and efforts to raise public awareness about the disease and reduce public fears to change behaviours and reduce transmission.

Every red line for this outbreak has been crossed and we cannot continue to play catch-up. We know from the West Africa epidemic that we have to act ahead of time, like it is an all-out emergency, or face the consequences – which will mean more and more deaths. Right now, we cannot say that this outbreak is under control. Community engagement will be critical to curbing the spread of Ebola and controlling this epidemic.”

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