By staff reporter
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is facing its worst Ebola outbreak in the country’s recorded history, health officials have said.
According to a report released on the Ajazera Media Network online page on Friday, this comes amid increasing warnings that the situation could deteriorate because of attacks by armed groups and community resistance in the affected areas in eastern DRC.
DRC’s health minister, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, said a total of 319 confirmed and probable cases have been reported in North Kivu and Ituri provinces since the outbreak was declared in August.
The figure exceeds the 318 cases documented in 1976, when the deadly Ebola virus was first identified in Yambuku, in the Equateur province.
Kalenga said 198 deaths have been recorded so far in the current outbreak, the country’s 10th, including 165 confirmed cases, with 35 probable deaths. Of the 284 confirmed cases, 97 have survived.
“This epidemic remains dangerous and unpredictable, and we must not let our guard down.We must continue to pursue a very dynamic response that requires permanent readjustments and real ownership at the community level.” said Kalenga.
But the medical response has been complicated by regular attacks of armed groups battling for control in the mineral-rich eastern parts of the country.
“No other epidemic in the world has been as complex as the one we are currently experiencing,” said Kalenga.
According to the minister, the teams responding to the outbreak are attacked on average three or four times a week, in an unprecedented level of violence compared with the country’s nine previous outbreaks.
“Since their arrival in the region, the response teams have faced threats, physical assaults, repeated destruction of their equipment and kidnapping,” said Kalenga.
The confirmation of new cases has accelerated in the last month and an emergency committee of WHO experts said in October that the outbreak was likely to worsen significantly unless the response was stepped up.