Ebola virus cases soar as Congo residents don’t trust WHO vaccines

Friday, April 5, 2019
By Paul Martin

THE number of cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo is spiking, with health experts blaming mistrust of a life-saving vaccine and health workers which recently resulted in arson attacks on two treatment centres.

Fri, Apr 5, 2019

Another 172 confirmed cases have been confirmed in the last three weeks up to April 2, with outbreaks hitting 42 percent of health areas in the Congo. In total, 1100 confirmed and probable cases have been reported, of which 690 people, or 63 per cent, have died, the World Health Organisation said. A WHO spokesman said: “The recent shift of emphasis in the response strategy to promoting greater engagement and ownership by affected communities is beginning to produce results.

“While community reluctance and mistrust remain present in certain areas around Butembo and Katwa, other areas saw a notable decrease in resistance to the presence of response workers.

“Diligent efforts at engaging with community committees through direct dialogue resulted in the reopening of the ETC in Katwa, bringing the total number of operational facilities providing care up to six ETCs in Beni, Butembo, Goma, Komanda, Mangina, and six transit centres in Beni, Bunia, Katwa, Kayna, Bwanasura, and Oicha.

“A more proactive approach to investigating and resolving incidents in the communities is also being undertaken to minimise the risk of misunderstandings and to mitigate potential sources of mistrust between local residents and healthcare providers.

“The increase in the number of cases this week highlights the difficult environment the outbreak is occurring in, as well as the multitude of evolving challenges confronting the outbreak response on a daily basis.”

Of the total number of cases, 633 (58 percent) were female, and 320 (29 percent) were children under the age of 18.

The number of healthcare workers affected has risen to 81 (7 percent of total cases), including 27 deaths.

The recent spike saw cases reported in Katwa (50), Vuhovi (34), Mandima (28), Masereka (18), Beni (13), Butembo (12), Oicha (8), Kayna (3), Lubero (3), Kalunguta (1), Bunia (1) and Musienene (1).

The Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid organisation put its medical activities in Butembo and Katwa in the province of North Kivu, which is at the epicentre of the outbreak, on stand-by after an attack on a centre in Butembo city during the evening of February 27.

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