DR Congo reports alarming increase in Ebola cases: IFRC

Friday 17th May, 2019
DR Congo

GENEVA, May 17, (Xinhua/GNA) - The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has had an "alarming increase" in Ebola cases in recent weeks and the international community must urgently up its response, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said Thursday.

"Despite some successes in containing the outbreak, there has been an alarming increase in new cases in recent weeks," said the IFRC's director of Health and Care, Emanuele Capobianco, at a UN press conference here.

Twenty percent of the 1,671 cases recorded up to May 11, occurred during the last three weeks, according to figures from the DRC's Ministry of Health cited by IFRC.

Since the outbreak started in August 2018, more than 1,100 people have died, making this the second deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, said the IFRC.

"The Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding," Capobianco said.

"The security situation is complex and will require a range of responses, including continued increased community engagement. However, the funding situation could be fixed. We need more investment now."

Ebola should not become entrenched in DRC's North Kivu and Ituri, nor should it be allowed to spread to urban areas where it will be much more difficult to control, said the IFRC official. "And we cannot allow it to cross international borders," he said.

Red Cross volunteers from the affected communities are continually engaging with them to address fear, suspicion, and concerns about outside help as well as the efficacy of the Ebola response.

More than 5,000 burials have now been requested since the outbreak started, and the way they take place helps avert the spreading of the disease to communities who have shown resistance to responders.

"Safe and dignified burials are important because of the dangers presented by Ebola-infected bodies," said Capobianco.

For example, during the 2013-16 West Africa outbreak, 60 percent of all Ebola cases in Guinea were linked to traditional burials. In parts of Sierra Leone, this figure climbed to 80 percent.

"In DR Congo, we have trained more than 1,500 volunteers to conduct burials in a manner that is safe, dignified and culturally sensitive. They are critical to preventing thousands of infections and saving the lives of friends and families in their communities," said Capobianco.

The Ebola virus is highly contagious and causes a range of symptoms including fever, vomiting, diarrhea, generalized pain or malaise and in many cases internal and external bleeding.