On Thursday 17th May the latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo was detected in Mbandaka, a city of more than one million people, prompting fears from medical experts that the outbreak will be harder to deal with than anticipated. The Congolese Ministry of Health was able to confirm 25 deaths from Ebola by the morning of Friday 18th May.
“The Ebola epidemic is the tip of the iceberg that is the humanitarian catastrophe in DR Congo,” said Roland Hansen, Head of the Africa Department at Malteser International, the Order of Malta Worldwide Relief Agency. “As a result of violent clashes in recent months, thirteen million people now urgently require humanitarian assistance. This is almost double the number from last year. Almost 800,000 children are severely malnourished, while 4.5m people have been internally displaced. This fragile situation is a breeding ground for epidemics like Ebola.”
Remote and rural areas of the DR Congo are regularly hit by isolated Ebola outbreaks. For this reason, supporting regional health institutions to act quickly and effectively in the event of an outbreak is a particular focus of Malteser International’s work in the country. This support takes the form of training in aspects of infection prevention for health personnel, developing crisis response plans with local health authorities, and pre-positioning emergency medical kits. These kits contain the materials and medication required for immediate action in the event of an outbreak.
“The main humanitarian crisis in DR Congo has largely gone unnoticed by the international community,” said Hansen. “When, hopefully, the Ebola outbreak is contained, the attention of the media should continue to focus on the situation of the millions of people in urgent need of assistance.”
Malteser International has been present in the DR Congo since 1996 to improve healthcare provision and ensure food and nutrition security with support from the German Federal Foreign Office.