Flood of refugees fleeing Congo raises fears of spreading Ebola

Thursday, January 3, 2019
By Paul Martin

CBSNews.com
JANUARY 2, 2019

Hundreds of refugees have crossed into Uganda from Congo in the days since that country’s troubled presidential election, a Red Cross official said Wednesday, heightening concerns about the possible cross-border spread of Ebola. Separately, the head of the World Health Organization said he has asked the supplier of an experimental vaccine to produce more of it.

The refugee influx started the day after Sunday’s vote and since then dozens of people have been arriving at a time, said Irene Nakasiita, a spokeswoman for the Red Cross in Uganda. Some Congolese trying to cross the border were forced back after resisting the efforts of Ugandan health officials screening people for Ebola, she said.

Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the anti-poverty group The ONE Campaign, had expressed concern about the virus spreading beyond Congo on CBS’ “Face the Nation” in an interview broadcast Sunday. “I’m quite concerned that it hasn’t risen to a higher level of attention on the world’s agenda because as we know these viruses don’t pay attention to borders, and they move very quickly,” she said. “It could kill a whole lot more people.”

Congo’s government cited the Ebola outbreak in the country’s northeast for a contentious decision to bar an estimated 1 million voters from the election. Protests followed, with some people vandalizing Ebola response facilities and some aid groups forced to suspend work for days.

The internet has been cut off in Congo this week in an apparent effort by the government to prevent social media speculation about the results, while the opposition and observers have reported multiple problems with the election. The internet outage also has affected Ebola response efforts, with Congo’s health ministry on Wednesday citing “technical problems” for the delay in sending its daily update on the outbreak.

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