The Current

Congo's armed conflict is stopping Ebola patients from getting help, says aid worker

A Congolese humanitarian aid worker says the latest Ebola outbreak in Congo could be disastrous for the East African nation if it is not dealt with properly, and armed conflict in the country is making things worse.

Latest Ebola outbreak could be 'catastrophe' for region, says David Bisimwa

A health worker sprays disinfectant on his colleague in September after working at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, eastern Congo. Aid workers say they are trying to gain the trust of communities, so they can educate people about ways to curb the spread of the disease. (Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/Associated Press)

Read Story Transcript

A humanitarian aid worker says that an armed conflict in Congo, also known as Congo-Kinshasa, is complicating efforts to contain the latest Ebola outbreak in the region.

Patients are waiting too long to come to treatment centres because they have been traumatized by the fighting, said David Bisimwa, a Congolese humanitarian co-ordinator for the international organization CARE.

"It will be a catastrophe" if more is not done to contain the outbreak, he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.​

The World Health Organization announced the latest Ebola outbreak in Congo's North Kivu province in August. It's the second to hit the country this year. As of Nov. 20, WHO reported 339 confirmed cases of the disease in Congo and 172 confirmed deaths, though the organization says more are likely.

The UN estimates that more than 100 armed groups — including Islamic insurgents and rebels against the government — are involved in a conflict with the Congolese army, and the fierce fighting has seen an estimated 500,000 people forced from their homes in 2018 alone.

Soldiers in Namoya, in western Congo on April 29. The army is fighting various insurgent groups, conflicting aid efforts in the region. (Goran Tomasevic/Reuters)

Aid workers say they are trying to build trust with communities so they can help provide safe means of burial for the dead, and encourage people to be vaccinated. But the challenges of the armed conflict could allow the epidemic to spread to other towns, or even into bordering countries like Uganda and Rwanda, Bisimwa said.

To discuss the Ebola outbreak and how it's being treated, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Trish Newport, emergency and medical co-ordinator for Ebola in Congo for Médecins Sans Frontières. ​
  • Gwen Eamer, with the International Federation of Red Cross.
  • David Bisimwa, CARE's humanitarian co-ordinator for Congo.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.

Produced by The Current's Caro Rolando.


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