“We are on the edge with this crisis. We keep pulling it back from the brink but it is very dangerous."
The United Kingdom's (U.K.) international development secretary, Rory Stewart, has called to declare Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) an emergency, after a two-day visit to the emergency health centers for Ebola virus victims in the northeastern cities of Butembo and Beni.
“We are on the edge with this crisis. We keep pulling it back from the brink but it is very dangerous. The very worst-case scenario is if it broke out of the numbers that you could vaccinate. Due to the insecurity, areas that appeared cleared of the disease, such as Beni, have seen the population struck again,” warned Stewart in an interview with The Guardian.
Ebola virus disease has so far affected 2,400 people, causing more than 1,600 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Stewart said that the situation in DRC is “heartbreaking” and that the pandemic must be addressed as a public health emergency mainly because it is spreading very quickly. The WHO has refused to declare it a global health emergency.
The U.K.’s international development secretary also said that countries with links to the DRC must contribute with more financial assistance. European countries are giving “too little”. France, for instance, has provided as little as US$ 1 million.
“We are critically short of money,” he said, insisting that “there is going to be a funding gap of US$100 million, and probably of US$ 300 million through to December because we have to stay on top of this. It is a very expensive response because the local systems are simply not there. We cannot move from one area to another and say it is solved. It keeps coming out of the periphery again and jumping 300 km north. The money is central.”
Additionally, he said that the critical issue is the way people deal with the crisis, as 30 percent of them are terrified at the idea to get vaccinated and more alarming, they do not trust medical teams. As well as violence in the African nation.
Healthcare workers were seen preparing sandbags in a clinic to shield themselves in the case of militias shooting at them.
“Most of the work has to go into convincing the healthcare workers even to wear their protective clothing, to convince villagers to come forward to be vaccinated, as well as to convince armed groups not to kill doctors. We are struggling to keep up with this,” said Stewart.
The British minister was also extremely concerned that the outbreak could reach the densely populated city of Goma. “If it gets into that kind of place, we have a problem. Goma is really connected to the world. It has the Grand Barriere heading into Rwanda. It is absolutely vital that we hold it here in Butembo and Beni.”