Unfolding Ebola outbreak threatens DRC

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Windhoek - Ebola is rapidly spreading in the Equateur Province in the west of the Democratic Republic of Congo, with the World Health Organisation warning that the disease could reach the capital Kinshasa and spread into te neighbouring Republic of Congo.

The outbreak in Equateur started in early June this year and so far there have been 48 recorded deaths.

The risk of the disease spreading into Kinshasa is also a real concern for the UN health agency as one of the affected areas, Mbandaka, is connected to the capital by a busy river route used by thousands every week.

"The most recently affected area, Bomongo, is the second affected health zone that borders the Republic of Congo, which heightens the chances of this outbreak to spread into another country," added WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaib this week.

The 12 affected zones all border each other and cover a large and remote area that is best accessed by helicopter or boat.

Further, the communities are scattered – separated by dense forest - and this makes it difficult to rollout a co-ordinated response to the unfolding disaster.

Complicating matters is a strike by health workers who are protesting low salaries, which has slowed responses to the Ebola outbreak for going on four weeks now.

More than 90 experts from the DRC and WHO are in Equateur, and additional health staff were recently deployed from the capital, including experts in epidemiology, vaccination, community engagement, and infection prevention and control, among other areas.

WHO said the response remained grossly underfunded after it got about US$2,3 million, and the UN agency has made an appeal for donors to back the government’s US$40 million to deal with the outbreak.

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