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Ebola in DR Congo tops 1000 cases, struggles to contain spread – Quartz Africa



"Ebola is just a business."

Congolese, targeting their frustration at aid workers, have used the medical community of cashing in on the second worst Ebola outbreak in the world.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the midst of the worst Ebola outbreak the country has experienced, it's spread heightened by suspicion and violence. The relationship between aid workers, the state and affected communities has become "toxic" with the already restive eastern part of the country.

Since the outbreak was first identified in August 2018, more than 1,000 people have been infected with the haemorrhagic virus, with 639 deaths as of Mar. 26, according to the national health ministry.

“We use words like 'cases' and 'containment' to be scientific, but behind every number is a person, a family and a community that is suffering , ”Said WHO director general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. "This outbreak has gone on far too long." DR Congo has established a good track record of the deadly disease, but this outbreak, its tenth, has defied expertise. Its occurrence in a densely populated urban area close to neighboring countries, has meant that larger populations are exposed to the highly infectious disease

This is compounded by sporadic conflict in the restive eastern Congo. In Beni, the administrative center of the North Kivu province, groups have repeatedly attacked civilians. The Allied Democratic Forces have caused deadly chaos in the region since the late 1990s, the ante in the last several years, which has led to the deaths of hundreds of people.

Frustration.

In their bid to undermine the central government and establish a sharia state, the Islamic fundamentalist group has manipulated the health crisis. What's more, several other militia groups have tried to establish their authority in the area. In response, the government has militarized the area, further isolating the community caught in between. Treatment centers have been raised and burned, and health workers are targeted. Security burials and vaccination drives must be reviewed by security forces, fueling suspicion.

Despite the danger, the vaccine effort has gone some way in keeping the spread of the virus, with more than 96,000 people already vaccinated, according to WHO, with 90% of people accepting vaccinations. Screenings have prevented the spread of the disease across the region's porous borders into Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan. Rapid diagnostic kits, better treatment and the lessons learned from the West Africa epidemic should all have eased the burden.

But these innovations have done nothing to address the mistrust between the community and authorities, according to Dr. Vinh-Kim Nguyen, team leader for Doctors Without Borders in the DRC. This is part of what Nguyen called authorities need to do to respond to communities' needs and the failure to understand the different treatment strategy needed in urban areas. What's more, the rapid response found with Ebola, does not extend to diseases like malaria, which have a longer, far greater impact on peoples' lives. ["YouwillleavewhenEboladoes""Youhaveheard"Butwewillstillbehereslowlydyingfromthediseasesthathavealwayskilledus"NguyenwroteintheNewEnglandJournalofMedicineUnlesstheresponsetoEbolastartstoaddressthesocialcontextthecurrentoutbreakmaycometoresemble"dystopianoutbreakmovies"

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