FILE - Moise Vaghemi, an Ebola survivor who works as a nurse, tends to a suspected Ebola sufferer inside the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at an Ebola treatment center in Katwa, DRC, Oct. 3, 2019.
FILE - Moise Vaghemi, an Ebola survivor who works as a nurse, tends to a suspected Ebola sufferer inside the Biosecure Emergency Care Unit at an Ebola treatment center in Katwa, DRC, Oct. 3, 2019.

GENEVA - The World Health Organization reports progress is being made in combating the Ebola epidemic in the conflict-ridden North Kivu and Ituri provinces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.  The latest number of reported cases stands at 3,429, including 2,251 deaths — a fatality rate of 66%. 

FILE - Burial workers dressed in protective gear carry the remains of an Ebola victim in Beni, DRC, July 14, 2019.

The global fixation on the evolution of the novel coronavirus has knocked the DRC’s Ebola epidemic out of the media's spotlight.  However, health officials working in the shadows have been making steady progress in slowing the transmission of this deadly virus.

WHO's regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, tells VOA the situation in the country is very different now than it was a few months ago.

“What I can say with a great deal of hope and optimism is that … we are seeing, for example, in a week something like five cases.  So, the number of cases per day is very much reduced than they were a few weeks ago, soon after we had some violent attacks and had to stop essentially the interventions in the hotspots in the DRC,” said Moeti. 

More than 100 armed groups reportedly are active in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.  The United Nations has recorded more than 300 attacks on Ebola health workers last year, killing six people and wounding 70, some of them patients.

Moeti acknowledges that instability in the region and pockets of local resistance toward international efforts to contain the spread of the virus continue to cause problems.  She notes, though, that the atmosphere has greatly improved.  People understand the gravity of the disease and cooperate more.  She says new infections are being detected and treated earlier.

Moeti says WHO has also modified its strategy and is working through local people and capacities more.  Judging from recent trend, she says this new strategy appears to be paying off.  

FILE - A health worker dressed in a protective suit talks to medical staff at the newly constructed MSF (Doctors Without Borders) Ebola treatment center in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, Aug. 4, 2019.

“We are cautiously optimistic that we are reaching the end of this Ebola outbreak.  What is very important really is the security aspect.  That we have stable security support and that hopefully, as well … violent attacks be addressed, so that they do not continue to be a hindrance to finishing this outbreak,” said Moeti. 

This Ebola outbreak has been going on since August 2018.  It is the 10th to hit the DRC since 1976, and the second-largest ever recorded, after the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa.   By the time that epidemic had ended in 2016, the virus had infected nearly 30,000 people and killed more than 11,000 in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.