As the world faces a coronavirus pandemic, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) faces a triple threat of COVID-19, Ebola, and measles, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) recently warned.
The triple threat public health crisis developing in the DRC is also happening at a time when the country is facing armed conflict, with more than 1,300 civilians killed in fighting over the last eight months, resulting in half a million people displaced from their homes. All of this chaos has been blamed for the spreading of these viruses.
“One of these challenges by itself is very crippling, Robert Ghosn, head of emergency operations for the IFRC in the DRC, told Reuters.
“The accumulative effect is mind-boggling. Communities have to face multiple challenges at the same time,” Ghosn said.
The country has already seen a measles epidemic that has killed over 6,000 people, and COVID-19, which started in May, with already 4,400 confirmed cases and 96 deaths.
At the start of June, DRC government officials confirmed a new outbreak of Ebola virus is occurring in Wangata health zone, Mbandaka, in Equateur province. The triple threat public health crisis is very complexing for health officials considering DRC’s health care system has been severely weakened over the years.
“The additional pressure to tackle these outbreaks will add a burden to the already strained health systems, and this will impact on the delivery of basic health services, especially for children and women,” Chantal Umutoni, a senior advisor with The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) DRC, told Reuters.
Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, recently reminded the world that “COVID-19 is not the only health threat people face” in DRC.
“It’s happening at a challenging time, but WHO has worked over the last two years with health authorities, Africa CDC and other partners to strengthen national capacity to respond to outbreaks,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa. “To reinforce local leadership, WHO plans to send a team to support scaling up the response. Given the proximity of this new outbreak to busy transport routes and vulnerable neighboring countries, we must act quickly.”
As a major public health crisis is raging in the DRC, not widely known to the world, it appears the US has taken notice with a headline Wednesday that said it will join the fight against Ebola, though it will not contribute money to the crisis unfolding.