Over 200 people have died in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola epidemic, which is considered the worst in the African country’s history, the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Health Minister Oly Ilunga, said, "At this point, 319 cases and 198 deaths have been registered. In view of these figures, my thoughts and my prayers go to the hundreds of families grieving, to the hundreds of orphans and the families which have been wiped out.
Official statistics show the majority of cases are concentrated in the communities of Beni- 97; Mabalako- 68; and Butembo- 22, as well as various outbreaks in six surrounding communities.
Nearly 30 health workers have also contracted the virus, reports say. Despite a vaccination initiative which has helped around 25,000 people, there have been over 201 deaths and another 291 cases confirmed since the outbreak was registered in August, the health ministry said.
“The risk of the outbreak spreading to other provinces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as to neighboring countries, remains very high. Over the course of the past week, alerts have been reported from the South Sudan, Uganda and Yemen,” WHO officials said.
Already state officials have distributed some 2,100 vaccines to Ugandan health workers to prepare for the “likely” outbreak which will follow.
The constant threat of violence from military groups has only served to make the situation worse, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “When there is an attack, the operation actually freezes. So we hold the operation. And when the operation stops, the virus gets an advantage and it affects us in two ways.
“And one is catching up on the backload. Because when operations are stopped, there is always a backload of vaccinations or contact tracing. And the other, the second problem, is that more cases are generated because we can’t vaccinate them,” Ghebreyesus said.
The United Nations Department of Peacekeeping has urged military groups to refrain from any conflict or interference with medical staff during this time.