Ebola crosses a porous border

Sunday, June 16, 2019
By Paul Martin

BBC.com
16 June 2019

This week the Ebola virus crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda, but there are reasons to hope it can be contained on that side of the border, reports Olivia Acland.

On Monday morning, a family was heading from the Democratic Republic of Congo back home to Uganda, after a funeral. The grandfather had died from Ebola and his daughter had gone to the country a few weeks earlier, to try and nurse him back to health.

By the time the family got near the Ugandan border, most of them were suffering from high fever and diarrhoea. They stopped in a health clinic and were put in isolation, awaiting tests. But after dark, six members of the family, including a five-year-old boy, slipped out of the clinic and set off down a desolate and poorly policed road crossing into Uganda. A few days later both the boy and his grandmother had died.

Health officials have long feared that this outbreak of Ebola virus could pass over the porous border into Uganda. The border is over 500 miles long and many of the crossings are informal – sometimes just a couple of planks laid across a shallow river. An endless stream of traders, some balancing baskets of eggs on their heads or swinging chickens by their feet, moves back and forth across the border each day.

The Ebola outbreak in five graphics

One of the main reasons it has been so difficult to contain the disease in DR Congo itself is because it is spreading in a conflict zone. Some 120 armed groups hide in the jungle-matted hills in the east of the country and regularly spring out of the bush to abduct or rape civilians. They make money smuggling minerals like gold and coltan, used in mobile phone batteries, or by plundering villages and stealing livestock.

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