WHO: We cannot afford to scuttle Ebola response efforts

A medical worker puts on his Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) ahead of entering an Ebola Treatment Centre run by The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA) on August 11, 2018, in Beni. (Photo by John WESSELS / AFP)

Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo is threatening to hamper progress made in the fight against Ebola, according to health officials in the country’s North Kivu and Ituri Provinces.

Protests at government buildings in Beni are said to have spilled over into an Ebola transit centre on Thursday, causing staff to withdraw temporarily and most suspected cases were then transferred.

WHO Director-General Dr.Tedros Ghebreyesus said in a statement that they have reached a critical point in the Ebola response and the gains should not be reversed.

“We have reached a critical point in the Ebola response. After an intensification of field activities, we were seeing hopeful signs in many areas, including a recent decrease in cases in Beni. These gains could be lost if we suffer a period of prolonged insecurity, resulting in increased transmission. That would be a tragedy for the local population,” he said.

In the Butembo area, some alerts of potential cases have been investigated and confirmed cases referred to treatment centres, but health workers were unable to trace contacts or conduct vaccinations.

Communities in affected areas have been asked to be supportive of the Ebola response efforts and to allow for safe access to treatment centres that could save lives and stop the spread of the highly contagious disease.

Violence has erupted in DR Congo over the delayed Presidential elections, which are now expected to take place on Sunday.

This has been compounded by an announcement by the country’s election agency, CENI, to postpone elections in Yumbi, Beni and Butembo until March 2019 over the Ebola outbreak.

Opposition leaders have condemned the move, accusing authorities of trying to rig the vote.