Covid-19, Ebola, Measles in Congo… How prepared is Congo?

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Covid-19, Ebola, Measles in Congo… How prepared is Congo?
Obiajulu Joel Nwolu

Africa against Triple Threat!!!

As the world battles the deadly corona virus which has stretched the health facility of even the best health care systems in the world, the Democratic Republic of Congo seems even more embattled.

The Central African country faces a fight against triple health threats- COVID-19, Ebola virus and Measles. Each of these diseases prove fatal when prevalent in a society, how much more when a single country has to contain the three simultaneously.

Congo has currently recorded 4,974 cases of coronavirus with 112 deaths as at 16 June, 2020. Africa as continent has a total of 257, 843 cases and 6,926 deaths.

It comes at a time when the country is equally battling a measles epidemic that has claimed the lives of about 6,000 people according to health reports. In addition, Ebola virus disease has reared its ugly head in Equateur province of the nation.

Medical authorities this week said up to 17 people have been infected of the virus in the western province while a further 11 have died.

Health authorities in Congo had last week reported 12 infections. The figure appears to be significantly increasing.  The National Institute of Biomedical Research had reported an increased spread of the virus since a cluster of infections were confirmed in the city of Mbandaka on June 1.

Congo as a nation has experienced several Ebola outbreaks. The origin of the virus can be traced to Congo.

The first outbreak of Ebola virus occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire) in a village near the Ebola River, which gave the virus its name. The second outbreak occurred in what is now South Sudan, approximately 500 miles (850 km) away.

The worst case of Ebola in the African continent can be traced to the 2014-2016 outbreak in West Africa which began in a rural setting of southeastern Guinea, quickly spreading to urban areas and across borders within weeks, and became a global epidemic within months.

It hit West African countries such as Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, and killed more than 11,000 people. Nigeria was equally affected though the country’s health authorities were quick to tackle and contain its spread. Since then, researchers have developed vaccines and treatment methods that can limit transmission of the disease.

Actors like population growth, encroachment into forested areas, and direct interaction with wildlife (such as bushmeat consumption) may have contributed to the spread of the Ebola virus.

Congo had experienced extended prevalence of Ebola virus which had lasted nearly two years and killed more than 2,275 people. Then, with just two days to go before its declaration as being Ebola free, a new case was found, and the outbreak could not be declared over.

Coronavirus has brought economic challenges and forced many African nations to seek grants and loans from International Monetary Fund (IMF) as well as the African Development Bank (AfDB) to cushion the effects of the pandemic on their economies. It remains to be seen how a country like Congo can handle such array of health threats in the midst of lean resources.

The administration of President Dr. Oly Ilunga kalenga faces a tough task against three deadly diseases which could adversely affect the economy and population of the Central African nation. It is imperative at this point that African states unite in solidary to tackle the outbreak of Ebola virus in Congo as well as other health challenges bewildering the region.

The best source of succour at this point is collaboration and resource sharing among countries rather than seeking relief and assistance beyond the African region, external grants do come at a price most times. At a time when many are advocating for self-reliance in the region, strides made in countries like Madagascar where the country has developed local remedy to coronavirus, (though not certified by WHO yet) should be embraced and promoted to position Africa on the path of sustainable development.

Senegal equally made waves for developing $1 coronavirus test kit and developing cost effective ventilators.  More African nations should seek and promote such ingenuous feat to help the continent combat health emergencies.

African leaders and health experts should as a matter of urgency deploy necessary manpower and resources to assist Congo triumph over her triple threat challenge. The Africa Centre of Disease Control should strengthen its capacity to support public health institutions as well as partnerships to detect and respond quickly and effectively to disease threats and outbreaks, based on data-driven interventions and programmes, as its mandate says.

source: CDC

This post was written by Obiajulu Joel Nwolu.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.

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