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News > Country

DR Congo's Health Minister Resigns Amidst Ebola Pandemic

  • Oly Ilunga had been Health Minister of the DR Congo since 2016.

    Oly Ilunga had been Health Minister of the DR Congo since 2016. | Photo: Radio Okapi / John Bompengo

Published 22 July 2019

The resignation came after the government said it will assign the responsibility for the response to the outbreak to a multi-disciplinary team.

Democratic Republic of Congo's Health Minister, Oly Ilunga Kalenga, presented Monday his resignation after the country's president Felix Tshisekedi stripped him of the management of the Ebola pandemic.


WHO Declares Ebola An International Emergency

Ilunga explained in an official letter published on his Twitter account that his resignation is mainly due to “the creation of parallel chains of authority and to the interference in the management of the response” to the epidemic.

This decision came after Tshisekedi's administration said on Saturday it was delegating the entire responsibility for the response to a multi-disciplinary team that would report directly to the president.

"As a result of your decision to place the response to the Ebola outbreak under your direct supervision ... I hereby submit my resignation as health minister," Ilunga stated, adding that "as in any war, because that is what this is, there cannot be several centers of decision-making for risk of creating confusion."

Following the decision of DRC's presidency to manage the Ebola epidemic at its level, I resign as Minister of Health on Monday. It was an honor to put my expertise at the service of our Nation during these two important years of our history.

In addition, Ilunga denounced in his letter the pressure he had been under to turn the outbreak into a humanitarian crisis when he considers it to be a “public health crisis,” that should be handled by the country itself.

He also criticized the urging from foreign actors to use a second experimental vaccine that would be tested in DRC. The former minister explained that the vaccine currently used has proven its efficiency since it is estimated to be 97 percent effective, with the capacity to protect a person up to 12 months, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"It would be fanciful to think that the new vaccine proposed by actors, who have shown an obvious lack of ethics by voluntarily hiding important information from medical authorities, could have a significant impact on the control of the current outbreak," he said recalling that some medical organizations have willingly hidden vital data from the country’s health authorities.

Last week the World Health Organization declared the outbreak an international emergency and along with the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and several health experts, have called for the use of the second vaccine which is made by Johnson & Johnson.

Ebola’s crisis grew rapidly since it resurfaced in August 2018, it has so far infected more than 2,500 people and killed more than 1,700. The pandemic is the second largest behind the one that hit West Africa in 2014 as the virus is highly contagious.

Active armed groups and communities’ profound distrust in the medical health teams have so far hindered the efforts to stop the outbreak.

However, and among the unrest, health workers have managed to vaccinate around 160,000 people with a vaccine produced by U.S.-based pharmaceutical firm Merck.

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