The Ebola epidemic affecting the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since August 1 has already become the worst in the history of this country, and the second in the world, which is affecting West Africa in 2014-2016. According to figures from the Congo Ministry of Health this week, the current phenomenon has already reached 489 cases and 280 deaths, surpassing the epidemic in 1976, when 318 people were sick and equalized the number of deaths of the then
The current phenomenon was proclaimed in the North Kivu region and is now extended to Ituri, areas where various armed groups have been functioning for decades in an endless conflict, complicating the access of healthcare personnel to many. places, as well as their mobility. "The circumstances of this epidemic are different and make it very complicated. My feeling is that if things do not change, this will last between six or nine months," says Lewis Ekinas, a Spanish nurse and an Ebola expert in Medicos, son Fronteras, who returned three weeks ago from the affected area.
Exactly last Thursday there were two armed attacks that killed 18 civilians in Beni, very close to the epicenter of the outbreak and were allegedly carried out by radical Islamist militia Allied Democratic Forces (ADF, according to its acronym in English). Armed incidents and kidnappings are very common in the area. Last November, the Army and the Intervention Brigade of the United Nations Mission in the DRC launched an offensive to try to destroy the camps of this armed group, which has been rising in this country and Uganda for 23 years. .
Following the proclamation of the epidemic, the government and the international community reacted relatively quickly and mobilized personnel and resources for the affected area. In fact, for the first time, the application of several experimental treatments has been combined with a widespread vaccination campaign that has reached around 42,000 people, according to Congolese Health Minister Oli Iluga last week. Despite this, the refusal of many communities to report cases, vaccinate or transfer their patients to treatment centers just complicate things further.
"The epidemic is branched," Encinas added, "with hidden transmission chains. We are not in the 2014 epidemic, which appeared in an area where people have moved from one country to another, but it would be catastrophic if they jumped in Goma or in refugee camps in South Sudan. " Apart from the uncertainties and disadvantages of working with communities, which is the reason for the refusal of the population to receive health care, the MSF expert adds three other key factors: "There is a high population density in cities such as Beni and Butembo, they have never had an epidemic of this disease here, and the health system is very fragile, weakening and, for example, causes healthcare standards to be below acceptable levels. A total of 44 health workers are infected and 12 died, according to ministry figures.
The worst epidemic of Ebola in history was proclaimed at the end of March 2014 in Guinea and quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. Two years later, after reaching the countries of Mali and Nigeria, as well as isolated cases in Senegal, Spain, where Theresa Romero-and the United States was infected, was interrupted in 2016 with a total of 28,646 infections and 11,323 deaths.