Ebola, a viral hemorrhagic fever, has ravaged the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since 2018. Now, in mid-2019, the situation has officially been declared the second-worst outbreak of Ebola ever record by the World Health Organisation. The Ebola virus is spread through body fluids, attacking the immune system and causing vomiting, diarrhea and extensive bleeding. Drugs and medicine are still experimental, with quarantine being the most frequent effort of prevention. This outbreak is the DRC’s tenth since the 1970s – yet this is the first in an active conflict zone. To date, over 2,500 people in the DRC have been infected by the virus.

This month, the death of the first Ebola patient in a large city proved that the DRC is struggling to contain the crisis. The patient passed away in the city of Goma, over 220 miles from where the outbreak began. Goma is a city of over one million people, and lies geographically close to the border with Rwanda.

It is difficult to bring this situation under control due to the lack of basic services and facilities in much of eastern DRC, where successive conflicts means over 5 million deaths have occurred since 1994. Government authority extends only to urban areas, while militia and armed bands dominate in rural areas, where most of the population live hand to mouth. Reports suggest locals wonder why similar funds have not been invested in preventing other diseases prominent in the area such as malaria. 

The WHO were reluctant to declare the situation an international public health emergency, mainly due to technical reasons, despite its spread to Uganda and Rwanda. On 18 July they rectified this. Health workers in the area have began rolling out measles vaccinations in an attempt to stifle preventable deaths. International coverage and funding to the area could help prevent the spread of this deadly virus, and encourage further research into finding a cure. 

 

Photo: Ebola survivor, UN photo archive

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