From the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo, lies one of Africa’s biggest epidemics in a century, the Ebola Virus Disease.
With a devastating streak in the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid stints of havoc wreaked on nations like Sierra Leone and Liberia, it remains one of the most feared diseases in the world.
In just over a year, Ebola has killed almost 1900 people in DR Congo, especially across its Ituri and Kivu provinces.
While the World Health Organisation has committed a lot to beating the disease, especially through endless research for treatment and vaccination, cultural sentiments from locals remain a big challenge to getting rid of the viral hemorrhagic fever.
Ebola is a disease that’s contagious, and health professionals and the WHO have constantly stressed the need to reduce contact within the populace. This has stayed a farce on the minds of many, who still see the disease as a myth, inexistent, and a biological warfare, brought up by bullish and belligerent scientists.
DR Congo declared its 40th outbreak in 10 years on the 1st of August, 2018. With over 2700 cases, it stands high as the biggest outbreak in the country. It is the second highest ever in Africa too, behind the West African outbreak of 2014-2016 that crossed borders with a dominating ease. Prevention of contact has been difficult, especially when a rebel group rendered millions of Congolese homeless.
The national laboratory (INRB) confirmed on 7 August 2018 that the current outbreak is of the Zaire Ebola virus, the most deadly strain and the same one that affected West Africa during the 2014-2016 outbreak. Zaire Ebola was also the virus found in the outbreak in Equateur province, in western DRC earlier in 2018, although a different strain from the one affecting the current outbreak.
Amid all these teething challenges, endless and relentless research has helped in the discovery of a lasting solution, but there is a problem; people.
Some Congolese have been very hostile to health workers, burning isolation centres at times and physically threatening health professionals. This has greatly affected the drive and enthusiasm of the health workers who have hitherto stayed put despite the constant threat to their lives.
With Uganda bordering DR Congo in the North, it has had its fair share of the devastation too, recording some cases of suspected Ebola Virus patients recently.
“The risk of the #Ebola outbreak becoming far worse than it already is remains very high. We have had 4 confirmed cases in Goma, #DRC, and 3 in #Uganda. On Friday there were 2 cases reported in South Kivu, ??. These are disturbing developments, but not unexpected.”-@DrTedros pic.twitter.com/Gy6mHfxhJv
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 19, 2019
On Monday, 19th August 2019, Director-General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Gebreyesus, himself an East African from Ethiopia, announced that vaccination for Ebola has proven to be 97% effective while its treatment is 90% effective if used early enough. This calls for celebration as it means the deadly viral disease is preventable and treatable now.
We now have an #Ebola vaccine that is more than 97% effective and treatments that are more than 90% effective if used early enough. Ebola is preventable and treatable. We need to make sure everyone in the affected area knows that.
— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) August 19, 2019
Some of the people targeted by the grand achievements have however remained stoic to cultural beliefs and sentimental appeals to the realness of the virus. ”It is not true!” There is a line of distrust between some locals and the medical experts working to ensure their ease.
“I wouldn’t take this vaccine, they just trying to infect us with something else. This is biological warfare on Africa
— P.Bonaparté (@khaziken) August 20, 2019
While these new developments are grand, and are viable solutions to a problem that has kept the world on its toes, the place of the people must be held with great strength, as some have grown an anathema for discoveries, and lifesaving innovations.
This is a big challenge for the WHO as new cases keep springing up, and in the advice of Dr. Gebreyesus, he said; ”African countries must invest in Primary healthcare, invest in emergency preparedness and leaders of various nations must be at the United Nations General Assembly on universal health coverage to catalyse the political commitment for HealthForAll.
“Traditional healers are the first point of call for many when they fall sick. Sabimana is one of many such healers in #DRC trained to recognise #Ebola & refer suspected cases to alert centres.
Only by engaging all members of the community can we put an end to this outbreak. pic.twitter.com/gmNKzSbIdB
— WHO African Region (@WHOAFRO) August 16, 2019
DR Congo however remains the focal point of work on diseases in Africa with over 2,500 people dying from measles, higher than Ebola’s while 50,000 die yearly from malaria.
The people remain a huge part of the process, and will ultimately be the solution, if they cooperate with relevant authorities, but with tales of ‘myths’ and ‘warfare’, where do these people stand.
Vaccines: Victims Of Own Success
The confidence and carelessness of the populace after vaccination makes its success a problem. This can be most related to the new rise in measles throughout the world. Currently, the United Kingdom is not left out.
“But we must look beyond #Ebola. #Measles outbreak in ?? has killed more than 2500 people since January – more than Ebola in less time – & yet it gets little international attention. #Malaria, the leading cause of death in #DRC, kills more than 50k people every year”-@DrTedrospic.twitter.com/TBEVhtGaoE
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) August 19, 2019
“The spread of measles worldwide is straining health care systems & leading to serious illness, disability & deaths.
Yet measles can be prevented with two doses of a safe & effective vaccine.
More from @WHO: https://t.co/KIGXbQC79m #VaccinesWorkpic.twitter.com/ZToQMf279V
— United Nations (@UN) August 20, 2019
The laxity shown about further vaccination has contributed greatly to the dominance the disease has earned in the past few weeks.