Ebola death toll tops 2,000

Ebola. File photo.
Ebola. File photo.
Image: Michael Freeman/Corbis

The death toll from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s year long Ebola outbreak has climbed above 2,000, government data showed on Friday, as responders battle to overcome community mistrust and widespread security problems.

The government team overseeing the response said the number of confirmed and probable cases had also hit a milestone of more than 3,000 in what has become the second-worst epidemic of the virus on record. Despite the development of an effective vaccine and treatments, health workers have struggled to control the spread of the disease in remote and conflict-hit areas of eastern Congo, where many locals are wary of the response effort.

“For the treatments to work, people need to trust them and the medical staff who administer them. This will take time, resources and a lot of hard work,” the International Federation of the Red Cross said.

This is Congo’s 10th Ebola outbreak, but it is the first in the densely forested hillside provinces of North Kivu and Ituri, where militia-led violence and ethnic killing have undermined security in certain areas for decades.

The government data showed Ebola deaths reaching 2,006 and cases at 3,004.

Earlier in August, the authorities came up against new fronts in their fight to contain the epidemic, fanning fears that the spread of the disease could accelerate.

Health workers confirmed the first cases in South Kivu province on August 16. Soon after, a woman contracted the virus in a remote, militia-controlled territory in North Kivu, hundreds of kilometres away from other known cases.

“We are fighting literally, along with all partners on the ground, to reach people and identify cases as early as possible,” World Health Organisation spokesperson Christian Lindmeier said on Tuesday.

Last week, the WHO voiced concern about the widening geographic reach of the disease, but confirmed the virus had not gained a foothold in the major city of Goma.

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