The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies warns the Ebola epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could spread to urban areas and across international borders because of heightened insecurity and a serious shortage of money. DR Congo Ministry of Health reports 1,739 cases of Ebola, including 1,147 deaths, which indicates a 66 percent fatality rate.
The Ebola epidemic in conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces started 40 weeks ago on August 1. What is particularly frightening about the latest situation report is that 20 percent of overall cases have occurred in just the last three weeks.
The International Red Cross Federation finds this sharp upsurge alarming. It is urging the international community to redouble its efforts to contain this deadly virus before it escalates further.
The IFRC’s Director of Health and Care, Emanuele Capobianco, says the Ebola response faces a double jeopardy of insecurity and critical underfunding. He says the security situation is complex and will require a range of responses. But he notes the funding situation could be fixed now.
“At the moment, the financial situation for many of the humanitarian organizations is quite dire," he said. "There is a real need to step up the response. Otherwise, activities will have to be scaled down and the impact on the future of the epidemic will be extremely serious.”
People who get infected with the Ebola virus have a very high risk of dying. Studies from the 2014 historic outbreak in West Africa show that between 60 and 80 percent of Ebola cases were linked to Ebola-infected bodies at traditional burials.
Capobianco says Red Cross efforts to provide communities with safe and dignified burials are meeting with increasing success.
“Up to now, there have been up to 5,000 safe and dignified burials conducted and they are conducted for, as I mentioned before, the people who died either in the community or the Ebola treatment centers of Ebola confirmed," he said. Also, for people who may be just suspected of Ebola. And, that is why the number of 5,000 is so high. That is a critical part of the work that we have done and which, at the moment is threatened by the lack of funding.”
Capobianco says the Red Cross has received less than half of the $30 million it needs to carry out its Ebola-control activities across affected parts of DR Congo, as well as preparedness efforts in neighboring Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan and Uganda.
He warns Red Cross operations will be forced to close within the next two weeks without additional urgent investment.