Ebola persists in Beni and Mandima hot spots; orphan numbers grow

Beni street scene

World Bank / Vincent Tremeau/ Flickr cc

According to the latest weekly bulletin from the World Health Organization's (WHO's) African regional office, the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) continues to rage in Beni and Mandima, with 60% of the cases confirmed in the last week coming from one of those towns.

In the past 21 days, 45% of new cases have come from Beni, and 22% from Mandima, the WHO said.

In addition to high viral activity, Beni has seen increased unrest and violence linked to the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a rebel group based in Uganda and the DRC, in recent weeks.

More instability in Beni

"The security situation increased in volatility as a result of a surge in attacks from suspected ADF elements in Beni Health Zone and successive demonstrations," the WHO said. "A recent attack in Mbau on the Beni/Oicha axis led to the deaths of six civilians, including a prominent civil society leader.  EVD operations in the area were temporarily suspended with resumption pending improvement in the security situation."

Regional instability has been identified as one of the main drivers of this outbreak, which has now lasted over 1 year, despite an effective Ebola vaccine. Both community trust in response workers, and the response workers' inability to perform full surveillance in the aftermath of attacks, lead to ongoing transmission.

Though cases have been concentrated in Beni and Mandima, a new health zone, Lolwa in Ituri province, has reported a confirmed case, bringing the number of affected health zones to 27. In the past 3 weeks, 17 health zones have reported at least one confirmed case.

Currently, contact tracing is ongoing in 19 health zones, with about 85% of contacts successfully tracked.

Two patients in Goma successfully treated

Two Ebola patients in Goma have been successfully treated for the virus and survived their infections, according to media reports. To date, four cases have been identified in the major city that borders Rwanda. Two of the patients have died.

According to the WHO, all case contacts of the Goma patients are being actively followed, and 98% of case contacts of the Goma patients have been vaccinated.

The Daily Nation, a newspaper in Kenya, reported today that the surviving Goma patients are the wife and child of a miner from Ituri who died from his infection.

Numbers of children orphaned rising

In related news, UNICEF announced today that the number of children orphaned by this outbreak has doubled since April and now stands at 1,380. An additional 2,469 children have been separated from their parents within the last year because of the outbreak.

"This disease has been especially harrowing for children," said Pierre Ferry, UNICEF's head of child protection programs in the DRC. "Children are watching parents die in front of them or seeing loved ones taken to Ebola treatment centers, uncertain of when or if they will return."

According to UNICEF, they have trained 906 psychosocial assistants and psychologists who provide a range of individualized assistance for orphaned and separated children.

Outbreak grows by 6

The WHO Ebola dashboard shows 6 more cases today, raising the total to 2,837, with 334 suspected cases still under investigation. There are also 3 new deaths, and the fatality total stands at 1,891.

See also:

Aug 11 WHO weekly bulletin

Aug 13 Daily Nation story

Aug 13 UNICEF press release

WHO Ebola dashboard

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