On the occasion of its assessment of the Ebola epidemic situation in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, the Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of Congo reviewed the history of Ebola epidemics across the country. After analyzing this data, Stake experts points to the security context as the main aggravating factor in the current epidemic in the country.
Concerning the current epidemic in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, statistics updated on November 21st, report 222 deaths and 117 people cured. 73 suspected cases are still under investigation, while 7 new cases have been confirmed, particularly in the cities of Beni, Katwa, and Kalunguta. The current situation of the epidemic is dangerously close to those of Yambuku (1976, 280 deaths) and Kikwit (1995, 250 deaths). The epidemic was then poorly controlled, particularly because of the context and the technical capabilities of the health authorities. Two important elements fundamentally change the context of 2018. On one hand, the existence of a vaccine and the better scientific knowledge of the virus should make prevention and response more effective. On another hand, international actors are more involved in the response strategies as their raising awareness to the importance of that public health issue since the long epidemic which made more than 11 000 deaths between 2013 and 2016 in several West African countries.
But the current Congolese context is also that of insecurity in the affected provinces. Abuses of Ugandan ADF rebels prevent the health authorities from providing care to the populations. The efforts of the Congolese army and the United Nations peace operation face well established armed militias which perceived the possibility of “monetizing” the access of the population to the health care. Despite the positive prospects for the technical and structural possibilities for responding to the epidemic, the security environment might become the major aggravating factor, making this epidemic one of the most deadly in the country.