Cologne/Kinshasa. This is the second Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo this year, the tenth since 1976 and, according to the Congolese Ministry of Health, the largest the country has ever experienced. In the eastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, 339 people have already been infected with the virus since July and 212 people have died.
"For the first time, an Ebola epidemic has broken out in a densely populated conflict zone," said Roland Hansen, Head of the Africa Department at Malteser International. "This has allowed the virus to spread over the past four months. Various rebel groups in North Kivu and Ituri have been involved in a violent conflict that has put the local population in danger. Many people are severely traumatised. There is a lack of trust for state health institutions and, by extension, the medical staff. Thousands have been fleeing to neighbouring Uganda. We fear that the Ebola epidemic could also spread through the refugees to Uganda. We have, therefore extended our prevention efforts to Uganda. We are training Ugandan health personnel working close to the border to DR Congo in the appropriate disposal of medical waste and handling of Ebola patients."
The violent conflicts in the Congo have forced 13 million people to become reliant on humanitarian aid. Almost 800,000 children are suffering from severe malnutrition. "This tenuous state of affairs is an excellent breeding ground for the spread of epidemics like Ebola," Hansen said.
Since there are frequent outbreaks of Ebola and other serious infectious diseases in the Congo, Malteser International's work focuses on preventing and combatting epidemics by supporting the national health system in taking quick and effective measures in the event of an epidemic outbreak. Together with local health authorities, Malteser International develops crisis response plans and provides emergency kits in the health zones. These kits contain materials such as protective equipment for medical personnel and medicines needed to handle an outbreak. In the coming days, a mobile isolation ward will be delivered to boost the state health centres quickly and flexibly if necessary.
Malteser International has been working in Uganda and the DR Congo since 1996, providing support for local health centers in both countries and working to improve water, sanitation and hygiene. In DR Congo, Malteser International's is active in the provinces of Ituri, Haut Uélé, Bas Uélé and Kasai Central, working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) and national health authorities. This work is supported by the German Federal Foreign Office.
Note to editors:
Roland Hansen, Head of Africa Department at Malteser International is available for interviews.
Tel.: +49 (0)221 96441 181
Find out more on Malteser International’s work in the DR Congo.
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Donation Reference: "Ebola Africa"