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Ebola: Another health worker killed in DR Congo

  • Inter-ministerial Technical Secretariat, UN partners, health ministry condemn violence

  • New vaccines arrive

In another round of violence since the world’s second-worst Ebola epidemic hit DR Congo  epidemic, a community health worker was killed on Saturday, November 2, at his home in Lwebma, in the north-eastern province of Ituri.

The victim, Papy Mumbere Mahamba was  a reporter for a community radio station in Lwemba  and was involved in raising the awareness of his community regarding the country’s tenth Ebola outbreak, which began over a year ago and is reportedly impacting the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu. His wife was also severely injured while his house was burnt down.

The motive behind the attack is still unclear.

Reports say authorities have begun an investigation of the murder and are looking into whether it is connected to the ongoing Ebola response. Two suspects have been apprehended.

The inter-ministerial technical secretariat of the response to the Ebola outbreak, the Ministry of Health and their partners from the United Nations (the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and  the United Nations Emergency Ebola Response Operations (UNEERO) in a statement, condemned the violence “in the strongest possible terms,” saying any act of violence against individuals involved with the response is unacceptable and compromises the ability of health workers to provide assistance to communities impacted by the devastating effects of Ebola.

“The inter-ministerial technical secretariat of the response to the Ebola outbreak, the Ministry of Health and its United Nations partners (WHO, UNICEF and UNEERO) offer their deepest condolences and sympathies to the families of those affected by this tragedy and to the broader community where this violence took place,” the statement said.

Since 1 January 2019, WHO has documented more than 300 attacks on health care that have caused 6 deaths and 70 injuries of health care workers and patients in the country.

Meanwhile, the Congolese medical authorities said Saturday, November 2, they had received the first shipment of a new Ebola vaccine as the central African country battles its second deadliest outbreak of the virus this decade.

The health ministry for the eastern province of North Kivu said that a preliminary batch of 11,000 doses of the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine manufactured by Johnson & Johnson had arrived on Friday.

In all, a shipment of a total 50,000 doses is being sent to the Democratic Republic of Congo to help fight an outbreak that has killed more than 2,100 people since August 2018.

Until now, the only vaccine against the disease was one manufactured by US firm, Merck Sharpe and Dohme.

The DRC’s deadliest Ebola outbreak since the West Africa pandemic in 2014-2016 has affected the provinces of North Kivu, South Kivu and Ituri and left 2,183 people dead, according to the latest official figures.

Since the start of the vaccination campaign on August 8, 2018, a total 245,999 people have been vaccinated.

Ebola fighters have been hindered by chronic insecurity in the affected provinces of eastern DRC, but much of the controversy surrounding the response has centred on the use of vaccines.

The World Health Organization had been pushing Kinshasa for months to approve the use of the J&J vaccine – an experimental product – to protect those living outside of direct transmission zones.

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC’s former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.

But Ilunga’s resignation in July appeared to have paved the way for the second vaccine.

Jean-Jacques Muyembe, the new head of the anti-Ebola campaign, said Friday the J&J vaccine would be used from mid-November with the operation being launched simultaneously in DR Congo and Rwanda.

Additional Report: Courtesy Medcal Xpress

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