Congo: Paranoia Propels Plague Proliferation

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July 2, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri and North Kivu provinces) attacks on health care facilities and health care workers by rebels, bandits and suspicious local militias have severely hampered Congolese and global efforts to end the Ebola virus epidemic. The two provinces continue to be epidemic hotspots. During June Uganda reported many suspected Ebola cases but only two deaths (of people who had caught in Congo). Burundi one suspected case. Health care facilities in small villages and towns are vulnerable targets. The World Health Organization reported that from January to the end of June 2019, 55 health care facilities in Ituri and North Kivu had been attacked. Officials blamed the worst attacks on the ADF Islamic terror group. The ADF’s goal seeks to disrupt the entire relief effort. The ADF has targeted medical aid convoys and warehouses. It has also attempted, with some success, to incite fear and create refugee “surges.” Refugees with the virus could spread the disease throughout central Africa. But the ADF isn’t the only bad actor causing refugee surges. In Ituri, ethnic fighting between the Hema and Lendu forced an estimated 300,000 to temporarily flee their villages and towns. The 300,000 figure is only an estimate. In North Kivu, local Mai-Mai militias have conducted several facilities attacks. Officials believe some Mai-Mai attacks, unfortunately, reflect community suspicions of the national government; those suspicions seed doubts about the clinics’ purpose. A term describing the phenomenon has appeared: Ebola disbelief. The term “inadequate public sensitization” to Ebola’s threat also crops up. Medical aid groups acknowledge that in several communities they have failed to gain the trust of the people they were sent to serve. If eastern Congo sounds like a land with overlapping conflicts –political, ethnic, sectarian, cultural, economic—indeed it is. (Austin Bay)

July 1, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri and North Kivu provinces), since January five health care workers have been killed and 51 wounded in by various armed groups. Congo’s overall Ebola epidemic death toll is now “about 1,500 dead.”

In southeastern Congo (Lualaba Province ), several hundred soldiers were sent to remove illegal miners from the Tenke Fungurume mines concession.

June 30, 3019: On the 59th anniversary of Congo’s independence from Belgium, police broke up anti-government demonstrations in Kinshasa and Goma (capital of North Kivu province). In Goma, one protestor was shot and killed by police.

June 27, 2019: In southeastern Congo (Lualaba province), between 35 and 40 people were killed in a copper and cobalt mine collapse. The mine is on the Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mining concession which is owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd. Lualaba provincial officials blamed illegal miners for the disaster and claimed 2,000 illegal artisanal miners a day sneak onto the mining concession. Illegal mining puts illegal miners and concession employees at risk. Occasionally the illegal miners fight with mine company employees and security personnel. Interestingly enough, the price of cobalt has dropped about 60 percent in the last year.

June 25, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri province), refugee experts believe that over 7,500 Congolese have fled to Uganda to escape ethnic fighting. The refugees greatly complicate efforts to prevent a serious Ebola virus epidemic in Uganda, which currently hosts some 1.2 million refugees. That’s the largest number of foreign refugees in Africa. Most are from South Sudan. However, right now 27 percent of the 1.2 million refugees in Uganda are from Congo.

In eastern Congo (Ituri province), soldiers killed 16 militiamen while one was captured. Soldiers also recovered four AK-47 rifles.

June 22, 2019: Foreign aid groups believe that 1.8 million people in CAR (Central African Republic) now face an emergency food crisis. Donor nations have to be persuaded to pay for food and other aid supplies. That means convincing donors that the aid can actually be delivered to those who need rather than stolen by local officials and less organized outlaws. The chaos in CAR makes it difficult to do anything.

June 20, 2019: In Congo, some 2.2 million infants have been inoculated with the measles vaccine since April. Another 1.4 million will soon be vaccinated as well.

June 19, 2019: So far the current (since August 2018) Ebola epidemic death toll figure for Congo is 1,449 confirmed deaths. There have been 2,168 confirmed infections.

June 18, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri province), ethnic (tribal) fighting has now displaced over 300,000 Congolese. The fighting largely involves Hema herders going after land and water used by Lendu farmers. The tribes have repeatedly fought one another with 1997 and 2003 being particularly deadly years with late 2002 clashes also being very bloody. Since the first week of June, about 160 people have died in the inter-ethnic violence. Death tolls in violent and fluid situations like this are notoriously unreliable. Refugee interviews in Uganda suggest the toll may be higher, but remember aid workers are interviewing very frightened people. (Austin Bay)

June 13, 2019: International aid agencies are trying to be as accurate as possible in tracking Ebola virus cases and Ebola virus deaths. However, the news that Uganda has confirmed cases and a confirmed death (possibly two deaths) puts the current figures in doubt. Officials today said Congo’s Ebola death toll is “nearly 1,400” people.

June 12, 2019: In Uganda, health ministry officials reported a five-year old boy infected by Ebola in Congo had died in Uganda. This is Uganda’s first confirmed Ebola death. The boy entered Uganda from Congo on June 9, which means he was infected in Congo. Health care workers near the border immediately sent him to a hospital. Two of the child’s relatives were also infected. Another four Congolese are classified as possibly (likely) infected by Ebola. The Ugandan government has identified 50 Ugandans who may have come in contact with the infected Congolese, including the deceased child. Ugandan officials have prohibited mass gatherings by people in the border zone. This is a necessary action but it has immediate economic consequences. Market days are forbidden. Uganda may not be able to stop the virus but its health ministry deserves credit for beginning Ugandan an Ebola virus vaccination program months ago. So far over 4,700 Ugandan health care workers have been vaccinated.

June 11, 2019: In Congo, the health ministry has declared a measles epidemic. Since January 1, 2019, there have been an estimated 87,000 suspected cases of measles. Testing has been episodic, but measles cases have been confirmed in 23 of Congo's 26 provinces. Approximately 1.7 percent (1,500 people) of those infected have died. In 2018 Congo has 65,000 suspected measles cases. Death rates are lower in nations with higher levels of health care but historically measles has killed at least one percent of those infected.

June 9, 2019: In eastern Congo (Ituri province), fighting between the Lendu and Hema tribesmen is escalating. A refugee wave (surge) has already begun with many heading toward the Ugandan border. Refugees are reported on the shores of Lake Albert. Refugees from both tribes report they have suffered machete attacks by warriors belonging to the other tribe. Refugees report the attacks began around June 5 although this date is not independently confirmed.

 

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