Dr Congo Ebola Death Toll Passes 500: Health Ministry

An Ebola outbreak in DRC./FILE

An Ebola outbreak in DRC./FILE

From January 2019, the number of deaths per week soared from 20 to 40.

The growing outbreak has a case fatality rate of almost 63 percent.

On Saturday, officials revealed that more than 500 people had died from the latest outbreak of Ebola in the country, but a vaccination programme had prevented thousands more deaths.

The DRC is battling the second largest Ebola-outbreak in history. Of the 97 children who lost their lives, 65 were younger than five years old.

Heather Kerr, Save the Children's country director in the DRC, said: 'We are at a crossroads. “If we dont take urgent steps to contain this, the outbreak might last another six months, if not the whole year.

Kerr added that efforts to stamp out the virus are being hampered by political instability in the DRC.

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The UN public health agency estimates that more than a million refugees and internally displaced people are traveling through and out of North Kivu and Ituri provinces, and this movement is a potential risk factor for the spread of Ebola.

Emmanuel Ainebyoona, spokesperson for the ministry of health, told Xinhua by telephone on Tuesday that the health teams have already identified the victim, as well as the family and they are being held at a health centre in the district. "Aid workers were threatened because it was believed they spread Ebola", she added. "We have to scale up our efforts to reach out to the vocal youth and community leaders to build trust and to help us turn this tide".

This alert, a PHEIC, has only been used four times in the past - for the last major Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014, the Swine flu outbreak in 2009, a resurgence of polio in 2014, and the Zika outbreak in South America in 2016. Amid this worrying situation, hope is resting on an investigational vaccine, rVSV-ZEBOV, which has not yet been licensed but has been shown to be safe and effective, according to the WHO. The main concerns for many people are safety and making sure they have enough to eat. The Ebola crisis has also rendered children particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

"Many children are being left alone [because of the virus] for different reasons". The Uganda Medical Association, surveillance team and border health workers acted swiftly by bringing this case to the attention of concerned personnel for immediate follow up. After a big awareness campaign, they started talking and hes less afraid now that they know how to avoid it, ” said Marie-Claire Mbombo, a child protection officer for Save the Children. "Children left alone are at increased risk of sexual abuse or of having to work".

The government acknowledged that in addition to reports that women were being offered vaccinations in exchange for sex, separate rumors were swirling on social media that women were selling their bodies in order to gain employment in the ranks of those fighting the epidemic.

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