UN: Spike in violence may jeopardize ending Ebola in Congo

UN says spike in violence may jeopardize ending Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo

GENEVA -- The World Health Organization on Friday noted “a very dangerous and alarming development” in efforts to end the Ebola outbreak in eastern Congo, warning that the eruption of violence may re-ignite the epidemic.

Officials have made progress in recent months but “if security deteriorates in the region, we could work our way to a very bad situation,” he said. Multiple rebel groups are active in the region. More than 40 civilians have been killed in the last two weeks, he said.

More than 3,100 cases have been confirmed in this outbreak including more than 2,100 deaths.

“At this stage of the outbreak, one case matters,” Ryan said, adding that one worrisome case is enough to spark new transmission chains. “That means the virus will get ahead of us again.”

Since the Ebola outbreak was declared in August 2018, the response has been repeatedly hampered by attacks on health workers and Ebola clinics. Some assaults are believed to be financially motivated, as millions of dollars have been donated to help stem the virus’ spread.

When violence has forced the suspension of Ebola response efforts in areas like Beni and Butembo, health officials have seen a spike in the outbreak, Ryan said.

Other aid organizations have warned that linking armed escorts to a health response could worsen relations with an already wary community where Ebola had never been reported before.