Congo's president wants Ebola contained within 3 months
Ebola is real, Congo's president tells skeptical population
Congo's president on Tuesday said he wants to see a deadly Ebola virus outbreak contained in less than three months even as some health experts say it could take twice as long.
President Felix Tshisekedi spoke as he visited eastern Congo, where this outbreak has become the second-deadliest in history. Congo's health ministry says nearly 1,200 cases have been confirmed, including more than 800 deaths.
Tshisekedi's visit came a few days after the World Health Organization decided that the outbreak is not yet a global health emergency.
"It is not an imaginary disease," Tshisekedi said after arriving in the city of Beni on his first tour of eastern Congo since being inaugurated in January.
"If we follow the instructions, in two or three months Ebola will be finished," he optimistically told a crowd after having his temperature taken and washing his hands, as required of all incoming passengers to Beni airport.
The outbreak is occurring in a volatile area near the border with Rwanda and Uganda where rebel groups and bouts of community resistance have complicated efforts to contain the hemorrhagic fever.
As of this week more than 100,000 people have received an experimental but effective Ebola vaccine, a bright spot amid the challenges.
Congo's president vowed more protection for health workers and called on the local population to co-operate with them. This is the first time this region has faced an Ebola outbreak, and many in the population are wary of both outsiders and the government after years of deadly rebel attacks.
If the Ebola outbreak continues "people will be scared to visit the region," Tshieskedi said. Since taking office early this year he has vowed to combat the region's rebel groups.
One woman who was leaving the Ebola treatment centre on Tuesday after recovering from the disease described her mixed feelings once she learned she had the virus.
"I thought I would die and I hid, but a few days later I came and got myself admitted," 29-year-old Kavugho Rachel said. "And here I am, in good health."
She appealed to others in the region to seek help at the centres, too.
With files from Reuters