DRC sees cases surge as Ebola outbreak hits 1-year mark

UN Ebola preparedness mission center
UN Ebola preparedness mission center

UNMISS / Flickr cc

This week, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) North Kivu and Ituri provinces will hit the 1-year anniversary of its start, but a surge of cases over the weekend gives little hope the outbreak is close to contained.

Since the end of last week, the DRC has recorded 41 more cases of the deadly virus, including 12 cases confirmed today. According to the World Health Organization's (WHO's) online Ebola dashboard, the outbreak total now stands at 2,671 cases. The dashboard also recorded a total of 1,782 deaths, an increase in 20 fatalities over the weekend.

So far the DRC president's office, which last week shifted outbreak response activities to its technical group, has not issued any detailed daily updates following the resignation of the country's health minister.

UN steps up efforts in South Sudan, DRC

As the outbreak marches on, UNICEF, the United Nation's (UN's) children fund, announced it was ramping up efforts in South Sudan, suggesting the country is vulnerable to cross-border infections. Earlier this month, Uganda was the first country to see three imported cases of Ebola, in an outbreak that was quickly controlled—in part, UNICEF said, because of early detection and community education.

In a news release, UNICEF said it is training 450 front-line mobilizers who are engaging in education campaigns across South Sudan.

"With Ebola closer to South Sudan than before, we have no time to lose.We need to be prepared to deal with an outbreak in the country, but first and foremost we must do everything we possibly can to stop the disease from reaching South Sudan," said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, MD, UNICEF's representative in South Sudan.

"The active involvement of communities is key to avoid infections. We are working closely with them to create awareness and understanding of transmission routes, and promoting handwashing and good hygiene practices, which are the most effective prevention measures."

UNICEF said it needed $4.3 million to fully fund Ebola prevention and preparedness activities in South Sudan through the end of September.

Also, late last week the UN's World Food Program (WFP) announced it plans to double food assistance to people affected by the DRC Ebola outbreak, according to UN News. The ramp-up will occur over the next 6 months, and is targeted at case contacts, cases, and suspected cases.

WFP's spokesperson Herve Verhoosel said the group is preparing for an escalation of the outbreak.

"Food distributions are key to the containment effort, helping as they do to limit the movement of people who could spread the disease, and to the vital vaccination drive," Verhoosel said. According to estimates, the WFP said each new case is expected to have roughly 50 new contacts, which equals a total of 75,000 contacts in the next 5 months.

WFP said it need $50 million over the next 6 months to implement its response and preparedness actions in the DRC, as well as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.

See also:

WHO online Ebola dashboard

Jul 29 UNICEF news release

Jul 26 UN News story

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