Concern increases work to assist communities as Ebola death toll continues to rise

Press release13 May 2019

Irish aid agency Concern Worldwide is scaling up its efforts to contain a major outbreak of Ebola, which has already killed 1,117 people and infected 1,680 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)*.

New Ebola hotspots emerging

Irish Aid has provided €200,000 over the past nine months and now is providing an additional €360,000 to continue supporting Concern’s work to reduce the spread of the fatal disease, in what is the second largest Ebola outbreak in history and the biggest in the DRC.

The number of Ebola deaths has risen by 201 per cent since the start of the year from 370 on January 2 to 1,117 on May 11, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). 

“New hotspots are still emerging and the number of confirmed cases of Ebola continues to rise,” Concern’s Regional Director for Francophone Africa, Reka Sztopa, said.  

“We are working with communities so that they are prepared should there be suspected cases of Ebola in their locality.”

The Irish Aid funding will be used to assist 23 health centres in North Kivu, in the east of the DRC. 

Concern staff will provide infection prevention control kits to the centres and train 1,150 health workers in how to use them.

They will also rehabilitate water points, showers and toilets at the health centres. In addition, they will provide Ebola awareness sessions to 400,000 people.

Concern Regional Director for Francophone Africa, Reka Sztopa pictured in Bougoin, Central African Republic. Photo: Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide.
Concern Regional Director for Francophone Africa, Reka Sztopa pictured in Bougoin, Central African Republic. Photo: Kieran McConville / Concern Worldwide.

Work hampered by insecurity

Concern has 180 staff in the DRC, where the Irish charity has worked since 1994. Concern is working with the DRC Ministry of Health and the WHO, which is leading the overall response to the outbreak. However, the work is being hampered by a tense security situation in the region.

Violent attacks by armed militia on health centres and medical teams have seriously undermined the ability of medical personnel to treat those infected and individuals at risk of the disease.

The WHO reported last week that since January there had been 119 attacks in the region, 42 of which were directly on health facilities, injuring or killing 85 health workers.

“In North Kivu, all the elements are there for a humanitarian disaster, with a highly contagious disease, large numbers of displaced people and insecurity that has resulted in attacks on health facilities making it more difficult for aid workers to access key areas,” Concern’s Regional Director Reka Sztopa said.

Reducing the spread using Irish Aid funding

The affected area is home to six million people. The epicentre of the outbreak is approximately 300 kilometres from Goma, a city of over 1.2 million people.

“Our efforts are concentrated on preventing the Ebola outbreak spreading further in North Kivu and preparing the health centres and populations in the event that it does. Of course if the outbreak continues to move south and reaches Goma and possibly Rwanda, we would have an international crisis on our hands,” Reka said.

Meanwhile, preparations are underway in neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda in the event of Ebola cases being detected inside their borders.

The DRC, which is 27 times the size of Ireland with a population of over 85.2 million, is concurrently experiencing other epidemics that include cholera and malaria.

Notes to Editor

If you wish to arrange a media interview with Reka Sztopa, or for more information please contact Communications Officer Kevin Jenkinson at 086 358 2886 or by email: [email protected]

* The figures quoted for the number of Ebola cases and deaths are from WHO as of May 11, 2019. More information and figures relating to the Ebola outbreak in DRC can be found at https://www.who.int/ebola/situation-reports/drc-2018/en/.

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