×

Search form

Beni North Kivu Democratic Republic of Congo
Fighting outbreaks

Emergency in Congo: Ebola meets violent conflict

Last updated 

On August 1, a new outbreak of Ebola was declared in Beni, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province. North Kivu is an active conflict zone where over one million people have been uprooted from their homes by continuous fighting. The province has insufficient health facilities and extremely low standards of living.

Health workers get dressed in full personal protective gear

Health workers get dressed in full personal protective gear to disinfect Case Du Salut Medical Center in Mabalako, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. Case Du Salut is one of the 37 health facilities being supported by the International Rescue Committee as part of its Ebola response.

Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

Congo has been vulnerable to deadly epidemics in the past. What makes this outbreak especially dangerous is the flow of refugees from North Kivu into bordering countries, including Uganda, Burundi and Tanzania. With 194 cases and 120 deaths, the outbreak has already spread to the Congolese towns of Beni, Butembo, Oicha, and Musienene--and shows no sign of abating.

A health worker sprays disinfectant on Case Du Salut health facility

A health worker disinfects Case Du Salut health facility after one of its nurses contracted Ebola while treating an Ebola patient in her community. She was transferred to an Ebola treatment facility where she died.

Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

Health experts, including the IRC’s trained professionals, are struggling to contain what is threatening to become the worst outbreak of Ebola the region has ever seen.  

A health worker at Beni Hospital burns personal protective equipment outside the Ebola treatment center.

A health worker at Beni Hospital burns personal protective equipment outside the Ebola treatment center. Health workers who come into contact with an Ebola patient must destroy all of their protective gear to prevent the virus from spreading.

Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

The IRC has been training the staff at 37 local health facilities to recognize the symptoms of Ebola and safely triage and transfer patients to Ebola treatment centers, helping to teach Ebola prevention, isolate and treat the sick, and vaccinate those exposed to the virus. However, resistance in the local communities to the treatment centers poses a serious threat.

Dr. Sylvie Musema Ngimba washes her hands with chlorine and water

Dr. Sylvie Musema Ngimba washes her hands with chlorine and water at Case Du Salut Medical Center. She is the head medical doctor responsible for infection prevention and control at the IRC. This is the fifth Ebola outbreak she is working to contain.

Photo: Kellie Ryan/IRC

“I am very concerned that people are afraid to get treatment, says Dr. PiliPili Raphael of the IRC-supported Case Du Salut Medical Center," describing the panic in local communities where many people fear they will die if they are taken to an Ebola treatment center.

“Patients are very afraid of the disease.”

Ebola cases spike

The number of new Ebola cases each day has more than doubled since the start of October, likely influenced by recent violence that forced a temporary suspension of Ebola response programs. 

IRC teams in Congo are deeply concerned that the number of new cases could continue to escalate.

Learn more

Read more about the IRC's Ebola response and our work in the Democratic Republic of Congo.