Congo Ebola outbreak compounds already dire humanitarian crisis: A new Ebola outbreak in the conflict zone North Kivu, that already suffers from mass displacement, is a toxic cocktail that will exacerbate the virus and have fatal consequences.
“This week’s declaration of a new Ebola outbreak in North Kivu couldn’t have hit at a worse time or place,” warned Dr. Ulrika Blom, Country Director for Norwegian Refugee Council in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “It’s a lamentable setback in the overall humanitarian response, and will compound the massive challenges we already face helping the millions of people in crisis across the country.”
Yesterday, Congo’s Ministry of Health confirmed four cases of haemorrhagic fever, or Ebola, near North Kivu’s third largest city, Beni. This is the tenth Ebola outbreak the country has faced in 42 years, and the second declared in 2018.
Resource-rich North Kivu has long been the epicentre of violent armed clashes and intercommunal conflict. It has consistently had the highest levels of internal displacement in the country. The northeastern provinces of North Kivu and Ituri have recently seen some of the worst fighting in years, causing nearly 750,000 people to flee their homes in the first eight months of this year alone.
Vulnerable families forced to flee because of violence do not feel safe. At least 1,000 protection incidents have been reported in North Kivu since January. These range from looting, extortion, maiming and burning of homes. In addition, families in Ituri province are facing crisis levels of hunger. Communities in both provinces are turning to poor coping mechanisms to stay alive.
“Many people who fled to Beni for safety are struggling to find food,” said Blom. “Many are farmers who cannot access their fields, for fear they will be attacked by armed groups lurking outside the city limits. This is the reality people are faced with before the Ebola outbreak.”
Compounding the crisis is an anaemic funding of the humanitarian response. Only 21 per cent of the USD1.7 billion required to help some 13 million people in need has been received so far.
The lack of funding has caused several aid agencies to close their operations in North Kivu. The result has been serious gaps in crucial sectors such as protection, shelter, water, sanitation, nutrition and education.
“Congo is the most neglected displacement crisis on the planet. Without adequate funding within the overall humanitarian response in North Kivu and the rest of the country, a multiplying of emergencies and fatalities is just around the corner,” warned Blom.