Demonstrators barricade a road during protests over their exclusion from the presidential election in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 28, 2018.
Demonstrators barricade a road during protests over their exclusion from the presidential election in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dec. 28, 2018.

GENEVA - Ebola control operations have been restored in Democratic Republic of Congo's conflict-ridden North Kivu province, following pre-election protests late last year, the World Health Organization reports.

Anti-government demonstrations preceding presidential elections on December 26 disrupted key Ebola response activities in some affected areas of the province, notably in Beni and Butembo.

Crowds of people, angry at the government's decision to bar the region from voting in the election, vandalized an Ebola transit center and other health facilities. The damage prevented health workers from going to communities at risk and providing services needed to control the spread of the deadly disease.

Protesters walk past a burning tyre in the Eastern Congolese town of Beni, Friday Dec. 28, 2018, as they demonstrate against the election postponed until March 2019, announced by Congo's electoral commission for Beni residents that is blamed on a dea
DRC Protests Hamper Ebola Epidemic Response
The World Health Organization says violent protests in DR Congo's conflict-ridden North Kivu Province are hampering efforts to control the spread of the Ebola virus.  Protests erupted Thursday in response to the government's decision to delay presidential elections in the region until March.  The World Health Organization reports anti-government protests in the towns of Beni and Butembo in North Kivu in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo are having a serious impact on the Ebola response…

But WHO says full operations have been restored in all locations as of Jan. 1. While the situation is now calm, WHO spokesman Tarek Jasarevic tells VOA that any interruption could lead to increased transmission of the virus.

"There is a risk that all this work that is being put in place, and WHO has more than 380 people on the ground, alongside hundreds of people deployed by the Ministry of Health and other partners, that this effort may be put in danger if we are not able to go and put response activities in the community," Jasarevic said. 

The number of reported Ebola cases stands at 608, including 369 deaths. WHO says no new cases have been reported among health care workers in 2019, leaving the number affected at 54, including 18 deaths.  

Jasarevic says it is yet to be seen whether the temporary disruption of Ebola activities prior to the elections will result in an upsurge in cases.