June 3, 2019 — Today, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Ministry of Health announced that the number of people infected with Ebola in North Kivu has surpassed 2,000, a more than tripling of the daily case rate when compared to time taken for the outbreak to reach 1,000. As violence and insecurity continues to hamper daily operations and mistrust prevents people from seeking care, these numbers are likely an underestimate and not a realistic picture of the number of cases out there.
Tariq Riebl, Emergency Response Director at the International Rescue Committee said, “The fact that we have hit 2,000 persons infected with Ebola so quickly demonstrates that this outbreak is spreading faster when it should be slowing. We are now seeing 8 to 20 cases recorded each day, a number that is very likely an underestimate. Just a few months ago, we were only seeing three to five cases a day. To see such a spike in cases at this stage in the outbreak means a drastic change is required. This response requires a total and complete reset.
“Community members do not trust medical staff and aid organisations, and are not coming in to health facilities when they show Ebola symptoms. In Butembo, the current epicentre of the outbreak, doctors and nurses are being threatened and health centres attacked regularly, hampering the response and forcing the IRC and other aid agencies to frequently suspend operations. To say that things are not going well is an understatement. It’s time the international community wakes up to the severity of this crisis.”
Whilst some of our work has been disrupted in the Butembo and Katwa area, the IRC continues to support 43 facilities in the area with visits from medical staff as well as supporting several hundred staff from the Ministry of Health who work at triage posts, and deliver vital supplies to keep health workers safe. In addition to this we are supporting facilities in Beni, which has also seen a recent increase in cases, and in Goma, to ensure that the city is prepared should Ebola spread. On top of this the IRC is working with women and children to support them with psycho-social care and other specialised activities to help them deal with the exacerbated impact that comes from an Ebola outbreak.
With more than 13 million people in need of aid, DRC is one of the world’s most complex, chronic and long-standing humanitarian crises. The IRC has been working in the Democratic Republic of Congo since 1996 responding to the humanitarian crisis in the east. It has since evolved into one of the largest providers of humanitarian assistance and post-conflict development, with life-saving programming in health, economic recovery, women’s and children protection, and livelihoods.